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KATH etiNt. L 

et. KJ 


1 1 







Copyright, 1918 




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His Own Life Story 


Faith, which burned in the heart of him, was 
the force that guided him on. It is unlikely, 
during those early Athlone days, that he was 
aware of his ultimate destiny or suspected how 
necessary he should one time become to the peo- 
ple of many lands. If he had known I doubt if 
he would have swerved from his course or exulted 
in what lay before. 

It wouldn't have been his way the way of 
John McCormack, who is what he is because of 
that quality which sets one man apart from oth- 
ers and makes him the exception. 

His intimates understand this. When his 
audiences have pondered they, too, will under- 
stand. For the very quality I mention is what 



they get when he sings to them and creates that 
bond between. 

Achievement seems to have been the actuat- 
ing impulse behind the endeavors of the man. 
To do well a task to which he set himself appears 
to have been the thing he cared for most. What- 
ever accompanying rewards there were never con- 
cerned him at all until at length he stepped 
back from the task to say mentally to himself: 
"It's the best I could honestly do." 

McCormack does not sing, merely, because it 
is his profession to do so. Medicine, the law or 
any of the other learned professions might easily 
have been made his calling. His was the mind 
for any of these, and his education led straight 
to where he could have proceeded into which- 
ever one his inclinations chose. 

But when his college career closed it was 
the interpretative soul of the man that whispered 
a gentle wish to be tended. And because he 
had in him the breadth of simplicity John Mc- 
Cormack listened. 

He began to sing, he sings to-day and will 
go on singing until he dies for just one reason 
alone: God meant that he should sing! He 
was born with the voice, with talent supreme; 



and yet the seeming intervention of circumstance 
was all that diverted McCormack from the wrong 
course to the right. 

Some provocative soul, with good intentions 
but an opaque mind, may suggest that if John 
had presented himself as he had planned for a 
certain Civil Service examination in Dublin he 
would have passed into governmental activities 
and out of music. 

But did he forget? Or was his apparent 
idling hour on the Liffey's banks a response of 
the artist nature to a predestined call? 

The hundreds of thousands who comprise the 
McCormack phalanxes will decide unerringly 
for themselves, because they have got the mes- 
sages his interpretations revealed. 

And that is the secret of it all, the why and 
wherefore of his being as a singer: which has 
made him a lyric star who puts truth and sim- 
plicity above all else, who feels with the heart, 
who sees with the mind and binds the two into 

It is some years since this impression grew into 
a conviction and thus has become an accepted 
fact in our daily lives. But now that he has 
made himself an institution the public of every 



country wherein his voice is heard regards him as 
part of its own. And so it is appropriate to write 
of those things concerning him which these pub- 
lics have the right to know and to record 
faithfully the story John McCormack himself 

It is a fascinating story, too, as subsequent 
pages will show a tale of an artist's rise to fame 
in a space of time so short as to savor of the 
Arabian Nights. For no other such individual 
meteoric ascendancy may be found in music's 
history. The probability is that none other will 

It is this amazing circumstance that gives per- 
tinence to this volume. McCormack himself 
was opposed to its preparation and publication. 
When the matter was broached, two years ago, he 
strenuously objected. "I'm too young a man," 
he declared, "to be written about. The print- 
ing of the life and career of one barely past thirty 
whose professional efforts lie within a decade 
might impress people as premature." 

That attitude is typical of McCormack. But 
his counselors, from their points of vantage, dis- 
cerned what the tenor could not see. He has al- 
ways been diffident ; he still is. And nothing so 



offends his sense of consistency as a word or deed 
out of time and place. 

His persuasion brought reluctant yielding, a 
final concession, I am moved to think, that the 
public to which he feels he belongs had to be 
considered. So the decision was made, and 
with an unassuming charm demanding emphasis 
at this point in the book, in order that those who 
read on may catch and hold to another strand 
of a sensitive nature which, in the face of sur- 
mounting success, continues upstanding and un- 

It was a summer's day, with the sun shining, 
when we began. McCormack sat on the veranda 
of Rocklea, his Noroton, Connecticut, villa, gaz- 
ing upon the waters of Long Island Sound. He 
had sat that way for some minutes; in a suit of 
tennis flannels, his stalwart body relaxed in an 
armchair. I waited for his opening words. 

"What a debt a man owes his mother and 
father!" he said. "We never know, when we 
are young. It is only when time has passed, and 
the world gives us one thing after another, that 
their tending is felt. For what I have been able 
to accomplish I am obligated to many; very 
deeply to a generQus few. But every year which 



drops behind leaves me with a fuller conscious- 
ness of that unpayable debt to father and 

He paused and lowered his cmn upon one 
tanned hand. He continued gazing over the 
hundred-yards' stretch of lawn upon the waters 
of the Sound. Yet I do not think he saw them 
dancing under the sun's rays, which seemingly 
turned them into bits of silver. He was in his 
old home again; three thousand miles eastward, 
in the historic Irish village of Athlone. 

He sat in that contemplative attitude for half 
a minute. "That's one of the great things," 
he announced. 

I missed his drift, and told him so. 

"Having made enough of myself," he ex- 
plained, "to be a credit to my parents." 

I acquiesced, in silence, with a nod. 

"And," he added with a gratified smile, "be- 
ing able to see they have some of the comforts 
they deserved/ I've been singularly blessed, 
perhaps overmuch; but" and here his voice 
slipped a tremulous note "no one thing has 
filled the heart of me as making my mother and 
father happy." 

He said no more, after those words, for a long 


time. He just sat there like the big and world- 
loving boy he is, sunk in the joy of having brought 
contentment to those who gave him life and 

Those of you who thrill under the spell of the 
golden tone he spins and confess to an occasional 
glistening eye from the pathos with which he 
clothes some phrase need wonder no longer. He 
may be an actor David Belasco asserts stoutly 
that he is but what he puts into his songs is the 
real thing. No artistic veneer in any one of 
them. Finish of detail and style, yes, and much 
of it. Words, too, which you not only can hear 
distinctly to the last syllable but can also feel 
the subtlest meaning of as John McCormack 
sings them. 

For all of which there is reason, in abun- 

I should like, if such impossible thing were 
possible, that every man, woman and child who 
appreciates this tenor at his true worth could 
have seen him that June afternoon in Nineteen 
Hundred Eighteen and been close enough to him 
to have felt what I was privileged to feel. 

"Do you know," he demanded suddenly, 
bringing himself out of the past with an internal 



jerk, "I'd not mind risking one of those aeroplane 
trans-Atlantic flights they're talking about if 
we could start off now." 

"Straight to the town of Athlone?" 

He smiled. "Yes," he answered eagerly. 
"Right up the River Shannon from Loop Head 
to Athlone, and on past to Greystones, near Dub- 
lin, where my father and mother and sisters now 
live. Tell me," dropping into one of the ro- 
guish moods he delights in, "is there any chance, 
do you think?" 

We laughed; and presently McCormack got 
back again to the subject. 

"I was born on June 14, 1884, our Flag Day 
here in America. It was a Saturday. I was the 
fourth of eleven children, which is some indica- 
tion of the burden my father bore in providing for 
his family's support. 

"We were genuinely poor, as the goods of this 
world go, but fortunate in those things which cre- 
ate happiness in the home. Ours was a Catholic 
Christian hearth, and the guidance my brother 
and sisters and I received proved for our best 

"Both father and mother held the natural 
parental anxiety for their children's welfare. 



They reared us under close supervision, and 
strictly; but their companionship was something 
we always sought. I knew, well enough, the 
pathway of right and duty. Yet the wisdom of 
treating it was shown me in a tactful way. I 
realize that my disciplining was rigid, though it 
never held a harsh touch. 

"Father was stern enough, but I like to feel it 
to have been more a quality of dignity; a reflec- 
tion of his serious outlook upon life and the re- 
sponsibilities which were his. He was superin- 
tendent in a department of the Athlone Woolen 
Mills, and he worked hard, for which he received 
a salary of 'two-pound-ten' a week. Mother, too, 
was industrious ; always gentle and a just arbiter 
of such disputes as we youngsters had." 

It is an accurate picture McCormack drew of 
his early environment. The facts are attested 
by Bishop Michael J. Curley, of the Diocese of 
St. Augustine (Florida) , who was one of John's 
Athlone playmates and who has continued 
through succeeding years a chum and valued ad- 

"He was a good boy," said Bishop Curley, 
"and very young to realize the dignity of the 
world. His own inherent qualities were of 



course mainly responsible, but historic Athlone 
and its ways did their part." 

Historic, Athlone truly is; and it has pro- 
duced three illustrious sons: The Right Rever- 
end Bishop Curley himself, youngest of Catholic 
bishops in America; T. P. O'Connor, one of 
Ireland's best loved statesmen, the "Tay Pay" of 
literary and journalistic fame ; and John McCor- 
mack; a triumvirate, surely, which instills com- 
munity pride into the nine thousand people com- 
prising the population of this quaint town by the 
Shannon River. 

"Andrew and Hannah McCormack did not 
wait long after the birth of their first son to have 
him baptised," said Bishop Curley; "he was only 
three days old when Father Donohue sprinkled 
drops of water on his head and pronounced him 
'John Francis.' 

"And it was a christening apropos of an occa- 
sion that particular Tuesday being the feast 
of the nativity of St. John the Baptist. The 
ceremony took place in St. Mary's Church, where 
the boy afterward became a devout worshipper." 

Bishop Curley related these facts during a lull 
in the story McCormack had begun to tell on that 



June afternoon at Rocklea. The tenor, respond- 
ing to Mrs. McCormack's summons, was on his 
way into the house just as Bishop Curley came out 
on the veranda. I could not well miss the looks 
these men exchanged as they passed; Bishop 
Curley's eyes shone as he took a seat. 

He, too, seemed retrospective that afternoon. 
He sat there, looking westward much as McCor- 
mack had looked ; with shoulders squared and his 
fine profile silhouetted against the foliage beyond. 

I was not long in discovering the brilliant mind 
of which John had told me. Bishop Curley 
talked easily, as an eloquent man will who is mas- 
ter of his subject. 

"Athlone," he said, with a touch of pride in 
his voice, "was a garrison town. It has been 
that since the days of the contest between James 

II and William, Prince of Orange when these 
monarchs clashed for no less a reward than the 
crown of England. 

"John will tell you that some of his own bouts 
at fisticuffs with his playmates took place on 
identical spots where Irish soldiers of long ago 
stood shoulder to shoulder in battle for their 
rights. And like his dead and gone countrymen, 



whose fortunes swayed first in the proprietorship 
of their native soil and then to its loss, John 
tasted both victory and defeat. 

"I could relate much concerning those early 
events, and of moments wherein Norman settlers 
did their full share with the Irish. But out of 
those troublous times stands one on which Ath- 
lone's glory rests the Fight on the Bridge. 

"Its history all Ireland delights in ; a proof of 
national courage and good red blood. King 
James II held Athlone, but the Prince of Orange's 
commanding general, the Dutch de Ginckle, chal- 
lenged for its possession, and battle ensued. 

"Colonel Fitzgerald, a junior commanding 
officer of the defending Irish forces, fought well, 
but he was outnumbered. And at last he made 
his stand, where General St. Ruth had ordered, 
at Athlone Bridge. A dragoon sergeant, and six 
of his men who volunteered, grasped axes and 
faced the musketry fire of the foe in an effort to 
smash an opening in the bridge that would check 
the invaders; but bullets sent them to an heroic 
death. Six more men volunteered to complete 
what had been begun, and four of this little band 
were leveled by de Ginckle's soldiers. Yet there 
was triumph for the two who lived the bridge 


ClfjHght, Vndirwttd & Undmuttd 

The Bridge at Athlone 


had been cut, the planking flung into the river 
and the enemy was stopped. 

"A premature celebration, permitted that 
evening by General St. Ruth, proved disastrous, 
for de Ginckle renewed his assault upon his un- 
suspecting adversary, crossed the river and took 
the town. But the Fight at the Bridge still lives 
and will, always. It was put into verse by 
Aubrey de Vere, and John McCormack has re- 
cited his poem in the Marist Brothers' school, at 
Athlone; the lines are these:" 

Does any man dream that a Gael can fear? 

Of a thousand deeds let him learn but one! 
The Shannon swept onward, broad and clear, 

Between the leaguers and worn Athlone. 

"Break down the bridge!" Six warriors rushed 
Through the storm of shot and the storm of shell, 

With late, but certain, victory flushed 
The grim Dutch gunners eyed them well. 

They wrenched at the planks 9 mid a hail of fire; 

They fell in death, their work half done; 
The bridge stood fast; and nigh and nigher 

The foe swarmed darkly, densely on. 

"0, who for Erin will strike a stroke? 

Who hurl yon planks where the waters roar?" 


Six warriors forth from their comrades broke, 
And flung them upon that bridge once more. 

Again at the rocking planks they dashed, 

And four dropped dead and two remained; 

The huge beams groaned, and the arch down- 
Two stalwart swimmers the margin gained. 

St. Ruth in his stirrup stood up and cried, 
"I have seen no deed like that in France: 

With a toss of his head Sarsfield replied, 

"They had luck, the dogs! 'Twas a merry 

0, many a year upon Shannon's side 

They sang upon moor and they sang upon heath 

Of the twain that breasted that raging tide 

'Mid the ten that had shaken hands with Death!" 

Bishop Curley told, also, of the romance that 
steeps Athlone, of other traditions than those of 
clash and strife and of the learning in which it 
abounds. It was in such an atmosphere that 
John McCormack thrived, where man's fibre and 
his mind count for most. 




"I suppose Bishop Curley has been telling 
every secret of my past," announced McCormack, 
as he came out of the house and over to where we 
sat on the veranda. He looked down at us, a 
twinkle lurking in the corners of his eyes, and put 
an arm on the shoulder of his old-time comrade. 
"Run on into the house, now, like the good man 
you are; there's a little lady waiting, and her 
name's Mrs. McCormack." 

Bishop Curley smiled and got up. The tenor 
watched him until he passed through the door- 
way from his sight. Then he turned to me. 
"A great man," murmured John, "and friend." 

He dropped into the chair he had left and ex- 
tended his legs straight before him. "Where did 
we leave off?" he queried. 

"Well, you were about to undertake a hazard- 
ous aerial cruise; but Bishop Curley turned back 
your life's history a few pages. Suppose you 



recount some of those experiences which began 
at school." 

"Ah," observed McCormack, "prying into the 
extent of my education?" 

"The early part, first, if you don't mind." 

"Of course not," he conceded, drifting quickly 
with innate courtesy from his humorous turn to 
the serious. "I was a lucky lad, though I didn't 
grasp it all at once. Most boys don't. Still, I 
think I was not overlong in making the discovery. 
There was the preliminary home training, pains- 
takingly given; then the day of my advent in 
school. And in this I was more fortunate than 
the vast majority. 

"You have heard of the Marist Brothers. 
They were skilled educators sons of the saintly 
'Champagnat' whose influence upon the com- 
munity of Athlone none can overestimate. To 
their care I was entrusted when I was three and 
a half, and with them I remained until the age of 

In that portion of his story, however, McCor- 
mack did not particularize as to certain essentials 
which his public should know. But Bishop 
Curley informed me ; explaining how exceptional 
a mind the then youthful John disclosed, the tal- 



ents he evidenced at many a turn, and the intel- 
lectual advancement gained when his tenth birth- 
day anniversary arrived. 

"He was passed at that time into the Inter- 
mediate school," said the Bishop, "and became 
absorbed in his studies. He could not have been 
otherwise, for entering upon the competitive 
sphere of Irish examinations he became, at 
twelve, a Burser. At thirteen he gained the cov- 
eted title of Exhibitioner, which carried with it 
college scholarship rights and a cash prize of 
twenty pounds; that, I can assure you, is an 

"This was an introspective period in John's 
life. Boy that he was, nothing appeared com- 
parable in interest to that contained in the classic 
teachings he received. Unconsciously, he was 
establishing an intellectual foundation for the 
future which he little suspected. 

"But there were dream days, and many of their 
hours John spent strolling and singing through 
grass-waving meadows along the Shannon's 
banks. He was a normal lad, who loved a game 
with his companions, and while many may not 
have suspected his natural gifts and brilliance 
there were those who did know, and who watched 



admiringly his progress. For he knew very lit- 
tle outside the Catholic church, his school and 
humble living." 

I brought to McCormack's attention some of 
these essentials which, in his narrative, he had 
omitted. "Bishop Curley does not exaggerate, 
I take it." 

"Well," said John hesitatingly, "I would not 
like to contradict the Bishop, but does it occur 
to you that he might be prejudiced?" 

It was the McCormack way, again; another 
instance of his inclination to slip over matters 
which put him in a favorable light and which he 
prefers to let others relate. 

"I admit I liked to study," he confessed, push- 
ing on in an amusing effort to escape the issue in- 
troduced. "And I liked, then as now, to play. 
You know the adage about the effect too much 
work had on Jack, and Jack's my name as you 

"I had no objections to a fling, for I was 
healthy enough and fond of anything athletic. 
I enjoyed, also, those pranks towards which boys, 
the world over, seem by nature to drift. I'd 
have been a queer lad if I had held no such in- 
clinations. But there wasn't any meanness in 



me. I tried to be above-board in what I 

People generally will no doubt think more 
of McCormack in knowing that he was no dif- 
ferent, in most ways, from other humans. No 
analysis will yield any different conclusion. Yet 
his capricious moments did not appreciably ex- 
pand until he entered college at the ripe age 
of twelve. Even then he preserved for some 
time the serious mien which had become habitual 
and was ingrained as part of him. 

His entrance into the Diocesan College of 
the Immaculate Conception of Summerhill, at 
Sligo, on October 15, 1896, was more or less an 
event. For he had won a free place by competi- 
tive examination and was starting upon a phase 
of his youth in which a notable personality, 
Bishop Clancy, was to exert upon him a lasting 

Up to this point no word of his voice or sing- 
ing had come from the tenor's lips. I purposely 
avoided any suggestion. To let him relate his 
story, in his own way, was my desire for spon- 
taneity's sake. Small need to fear that his 
logical reasoning would make a slip in the se- 
quence. He would reach the beginnings of his 



singing impulses, I figured, in due time; and 
my assumption proved not at fault. 

From the roadway, back of us, came to our 
ears the musical sound of an automobile warn- 
ing. It was one of those chiming affairs, made 
of tubes of brass. McCormack lifted his head to 
glance toward the strip of road. 

'Tis a pleasant invitation, those chimes 
make, to get to somewhere out of the way. But 
perhaps the machine has a soft heart, who 
knows? I remember my own heart was soft 
enough the day I first sang before a crowd." 
He was getting to it. 

"When was that?" 

"Twenty-five years ago ; I was nine and a slip 
of a lad and shy. It was in the Marist Brothers' 
school, on a feast day, when Dr. Woodlock, 
Bishop of Clonmacnoise, was the guest of honor. 
I'll not forget the sensation at hearing the words 
which Brother Hugh whispered in my ear. 'We 
want you to sing, John, for Bishop Woodlock.' 
With that the good man lifted me upon a table, 
and left me looking at the gathering. 

"Like many another Irish boy I had sung: in 
my own room at home, or a snatch of some ballad 
as I walked outdoors. But never had I sung 



O 1) 
u > 





seriously before what may be described an audi- 
ence. Different persons had told me I had a 
nice voice, which warmed me because I love 
to sing. 

"But there's a difference between singing for 
one's self and singing to others, who may be 
more or less critical according to the mood and 
capacity. Not that I expected to be severely 
judged on that occasion, either. I daresay it 
was no more than a natural feeling almost any lad 
would have felt ; a human sensation which comes 
when one essays for the first time a task on 
which judgment must pass. And the presence 
of Dr. Woodlock was most impressive. 

"A great deal flashed through my childish 
mind as I was lifted to that table. As I stood 
facing my auditors the Bishop, schoolmates and 
teachers I felt queer around my middle. No 
absolute fear, mind you; just a sudden con- 
sciousness that I wanted to do well and won- 
dering if I would." 

He broke off, there, allowing himself a 
reminiscent smile. He must have sung that 
song, silently and to himself, quite through from 
beginning to end, for it was a matter of minutes 
before he again spoke. 



' 'Shades of Evening Close Not O'er Us,' said 
McCormack softly, "that was the song in which 
are the words, 'Absence makes the heart grow 
fonder.' Every one kept very still and atten- 
tive. I'd like to have a record made of that 
song, as I sang it that day just for Mrs. Mc- 
Cormack and the kiddies and myself." 

I sat studying him as his thoughts drifted, 
again, to that spot in the Marist Brothers' school. 
Presently John came out of his mental journey- 

"I think they must have liked it," he buoy- 
antly announced, with a complete change of 
manner. "They seemed to." And I presume 
McCormack was right. 

"I had no extensive repertoire," he informed 
me, "but what I knew I knew. And the sing- 
ing spirit, I guess, must have been there. Like 
the man born to be hanged, I possibly was in- 
tended to sing." 

There came, then, an interruption. John 
didn't seem to mind. He appeared rather to 
welcome it in the form of a girl of nine, lithe 
and jubilant and affectionately inclined. And 
straightway Gwendolyn McCormack danced over 



to her father and mussed his hair in most familiar 

In the case of Gwenny, photographs do not 
serve. They miss, for one thing, the spirit of 
Irish beauty which is hers and which, for full 
appreciation, must be seen in the flesh. The 
glint of her hair, too, is something for actual 
sight. An optimistic lass, with bubbling nature, 
a sturdy little body and unspoiled ways. 

And for some reason perhaps because she is 
his daughter John appeared fond of Gwenny. 
I asked him why and he grinned and replied: 
"Ask her." 

But before I could this energetic miss was 
off and away and out of sight. 

We followed as far as the edge of the veranda, 
and walked together across the lawn to the 
beach. The tenor became more concerned, at 
that moment, with nature. He cast about for 
wide, flat stones and finding them flung them 
zipping over the water's surface, in that process 
known to the youthful contingent as "skipping." 

"How many can you do?" I wanted to know. 

"I did eleven once." 




"Well, what's a matter of a few skips . . . 
between friends?" 

"Oh, yes! What you might term skipping 
the count rather than counting the skips." 

"Here, now," objected John, "you're not to 
put that in the book. I'll say all the clever 

In the evening we resumed. 

"It was a trim little stone house, where we 
lived," said McCormack, "only six rooms, with 
a slate roof. But comfortable within, and very 
near St. Mary's Church. When the family was 
complete there were thirteen of us eleven chil- 
dren : Mary Ann, who died as an infant ; Peter, 
who also passed away when he was a baby; 
Isabella, who lived until she was sixteen; Jane, 
now married and living in England; John (that's 
myself) ; Mary Ann, whom mother and father 
cannot allow out of their sight without being 
unhappy ; Andrew, a fine lad, who made this truly 
wonderful request of me on his death-bed, 'Put 
your head against mine, so it will rest against 
something hard, like the Lord's did, when he 
died' ; Thomas, who died very young; James, now 
a wireless operator in the British Navy ; Agnes, at 



present with my father and mother and waiting 
to be called to France, as a nurse, and Florence, 
who likewise is at the parental home in Grey- 

"Father was a true Irishman ; he loved music. 
I well remember seeing him at the piano, picking 
out on the black keys with one finger 'The 
Wearin' of the Green.' So what piping I did, 
by way of singing at five and thereafter, he never 
minded. Nor mother." 

"County Westmeath tunes, eh?" 

McCormack laughed at this. "Yes, and 
tunes from other parts of Ireland, sung in those 
days in Westmeath ; that's where the McCormack 
homestead stood." 

"Not in Roscommon?" 

John shook his head. "I'm aware of the dis- 
cussions as to that, but we were on the West- 
meath side of the Shannon whose swirling cen- 
tre was the dividing line between the counties. 
No, I was born in Westmeath, and I should know 
I was right there. 

"Michael Curley he's the eminent Bishop 
Curley now was one of my earliest playmates. 
Older than I by four years and, bless him, a good 
influence, even then. He used to wait around 



for me at school when father first took me there, 
on his shoulders. 

"Time brought us continually closer. We 
had much in common. He was an example in 
studiousness and character; a safe leader to fol- 
low. The Bishop the Michael of those other 
times always had a cheering word for my voice 
and singing. 

' 'Sing on, John,' he would say, and thus en- 
couraged I obeyed. 

"The songs I knew then were good songs, 
though few. 'Believe me, if all those endearing 
young charms' was one. My mother taught it 
to me, and though I sing it to this day I have 
never found it necessary to change so much as a 
breath-mark in it. 'Annie Laurie' was another 
of my youthful songs ; so was 'The Irishman' and 
yet another 'Jessie, the Flower of Dunblane,' 
which I shall some day put on my concert pro- 

"But the vocal part of my early schooldays 
was subordinated to the more serious duty of 
learning. The desire for knowledge was strong 
in our community, and those who commanded 
knowledge commanded, in corresponding de- 
gree, the respect of the citizens. 



"Athlone, as the Bishop has told you, was a 
garrison town. Like all of its kind, it had a cer- 
tain culture despite the fact that the people 
were simple in tastes and felt the constructive ef- 
fects of religion, in which the Catholic faith 
exerted a most beneficent influence. 

"I would not change Athlone, if I could, nor 
were I living over again those days would I ask 
to have any altered in the littlest way. The 
town was kind to me, and though my disciplin- 
ing was severe, it begets its reward and few suf- 
fer from its touch.' 




John did not enter upon his college career in 
the propitious manner that prevails here in 
America. Andrew McCormack's meagre in- 
come, and the manifold needs for it, left only a 
few pounds a year to be sent the boy for his 
clothing. John's success in winning an allow- 
ance as an Exhibitioner provided for his tuition 
and left a small sum sufficient for other neces- 
sary expenses. But from October 15, 1896, 
to June 23, 1902, which marked his college days, 
economy was McCormack's watchword. For- 
tunately the purchasing power of money in Ire- 
land, at that time, was large. 'Twas lucky 
for me, else I should have fallen by the intel- 
lectual wayside," said John. 

No more than a child when he passed his ex- 
aminations, McCormack was strangely matured 
in his ways. The youngest of his classmates, 
he approached his studies with calm assurance, 



and as he was one of the six Exhibitioners in 
Summerhill College he attracted the attention of 
the saintly Bishop Clancy himself. The ruler 
of the Diocese of Elphin had a scintillating mind, 
with keen perceptions. And observing this 
student he discovered more than the intellectual 
talents he possessed; he probed the soul of the 
lad, finding there a craving for song. 

"Long before I was aware of it, Bishop Clancy 
was nurturing that part of me," declared John. 
"He did it with a subtlety such as few men 
could have known; for all the while my intel- 
lectual development progressed, and without con- 
sciousness of the process I was growing in two 

"Have you ever known homesickness? I ex- 
perienced it in that fall of 1896. It came and 
stopped with me like an unwelcome relative who 
never knows when to go. Bishop Clancy ef- 
fected my cure; his kindliness and the cheer of 
his voice and words seemed to start my heart 
beating anew. He was a stimulant, with an in- 
describably wonderful way. 

"I worked," said the tenor, "very hard. And 
when homesickness was sufficiently dispelled the 
world breathed for me a new note. I decided 



to live a while longer, and to continue preparing 
for the career my father had his hopes set on for 
me. Yet there were doubting moments, with 
each day. The Church had its appeal, but I 
could not shake that vague Questioning as to my 
fitness to be its servant." 

Bishop Curley touched on this phase of 
churchly matters shortly before he left New 
York for St. Augustine again, not long after our 
conversation at Noroton. "There are some stu- 
dents for the priesthood whom it is better to dis- 
suade from that wish," said he, "and others who 
eliminate themselves in a perfectly normal way. 
John McCormack was of the latter kind." 

We were trudging along a Connecticut road, 
near Rocklea, during this period of McCormack's 
life tale. He's a free-swinging pedestrian, with 
a stride that gets somewhere. Nearing the tiny 
church which stands halfway between Noroton 
and Stamford, where the McCormack family wor- 
ships, John came to a full halt. 

"Now then," he began by way of opening his 
argument, "I ask if I'm not a greater help at 
pulling the boat than as a pilot? Bishop 
Clancy thought so, and his vision was clear." 

McCormack stood in the roadway, disregard- 


ing the heat of mid-day, and gazing long at this 
particular domicile that helps foster the faith 
he was born in. "Yes," he said slowly, "I'm 
a good soldier; better that, don't you think, than 
a commonplace general?" 

John was right. Bishop Clancy thought so; 
and Bishop Curley agrees, which should have 
some influence in the matter. 

"There have been stories to the effect that 
my father was heart-broken over my not having 
entered the priesthood," said McCormack, "and 
they are wrong. It would have pleased him had 
I become a priest, that I know; but his ambi- 
tions for me were always of a different sort. He 
anticipated seeing me eventually launched in 
either medicine or the law. My having been 
placed in the Marist Brothers' school was a per- 
fectly natural procedure on father's part. It 
was a wonderful educational institution, and 
though it offered exceptional facilities to who- 
ever had leanings towards the Church, it was 
no less admirable for the professions. What 
is true of the Marist Brothers' school holds 
equally of Summerhill. 

"That first college year at Summerhill was not 
easy," confessed the tenor. We were walking 



again, McCormack dripping with perspiration 
and carrying his cap in his hand. "The next 
year came less hard and the third when I was 
fourteen found my outlook broader. 

"Bishop Clancy was responsible. The 
premier preacher in the entire Irish hierarchy, 
he was the most human man imaginable, with 
sympathies and an understanding for his fellow 
creatures which helped in making him the force 
he was. We were gradually becoming friends, 
and his friendship was a thing to cherish. I 
had become interested in the college life and in 
the whirl of intellectual pursuit. It was disci- 
pline, and it kept one's head up and let him look 
his neighbor in the eye. 

"I won't bore you with the nature and extent 
of my studies except to state that they included 
those subjects incorporated in the legitimate 
classic course. They were sufficient, you may 
believe, and the lessons had to be well learned. 
Early to rise and early to bed you remember 
that phrase? I reverse the usual order of the 
words, because it seemed to me that I was for 
ever getting up in my sleep. I think an Irish- 
man thought of that saying and that Summerhill 
tried to stretch its usefulness. 



"At any rate, we took time in that college by 
the forelock and were disinclined to let go. We 
relaxed, of course, and had our games and pleas- 
ures. Football Association style was popu- 
lar, and I well recall that at one period of my 
college days I was more interested in making 
the team than in anything else. But hand- 
ball was my forte and I gave it many spare 

"You organized a glee club, didn't you?" 

"Never," answered McCormack. "Such a 
thing never existed at Summerhill during my 
time. It was a pity, too, because there was more 
than enough good natural musical material to 
be had. But no consideration was given music, 
nor is any given throughout Ireland to the youth 
of that country. I hope some day to see con- 
ditions changed, because there are so many fine 
voices amongst the Irish and they are so musical 
that with their opportunities the priests in Ire- 
land could do a great musical good. 

"Had my father and mother not been musically 
gifted my own progress would have amounted 
to nothing. It was their encouragement and 
their sensible, if non-technical, instruction, which 
supplied my initial impulse in music. Father 



had a pure tenor voice and mother a very pleasing 

"To sing was second nature to me by the time 
I was fourteen. I sang eternally wherever and 
whenever I could even during that period when 
my voice was changing. I realize that this will 
invite from experts expressions of surprise. 
Opinion has it that such a practice is dangerous 
to the voice, but it never seemed to injure mine. 
I would be singing, in my boyish soprano, when 
the tone would 'turn over' and sound a masculine 
timbre ; a sort of 'mixed' tone, as it were. Then 
the soprano quality would creep back into the 
voice, and remain until the next moment of 
physiological disturbance. If I had forced, or 
sung with muscular constriction, damage no 
doubt would have been wrought. As events 
proved, I bridged the critical part of that period 
of my vocal development; in a few months the 
voice settled into the beginnings of the tenor it 
now is. 

"I wouldn't describe that third year at college 
as one in which there was a division of effort, 
still the call to sing was loud in my ears and I 
was giving heed. My first paid engagement, 




by the way, materialized about this time, and 
this was the way of it. 

"Father Hynes, one of the Summerhill in- 
structors whom we boys adored, had arranged 
to give two concerts. He had the co-operation 
of citizens in the town of Sligo, and the proceeds 
were to be given to the temperance cause. I 
first learned of the project one afternoon, when 
Father Hynes stopped me on the campus and 
told me about it. He finished by saying to me, 
'How would you like to sing at those concerts, 
John?' I wasn't certain, for a moment, whether 
my hearing had not played me a trick, but I was 
straightway reassured. The world thereupon 
assumed majestic proportions, with John Mc- 
Cormack conspicuous in their midst. I was to 
receive, for my services, the impressive sum of 
four shillings. 

"I believe there is a tale to the effect that I 
stole out of my college quarters and slipped to 
the concert, and returned unobserved, but that 
is incorrect. Father Hynes secured for me the 
necessary permission to be absent on the two 
nights of the concerts, and I departed from and 
returned to college quite conventionally. My 



first appearance, however, carried the great ap- 
peal and found me in a state of suppressed ex- 
citement. I went to Sligo, sang in the concert, 
received from Father Hynes one-half of the 
agreed sum of four shillings and returned to my 
bed with the heart of me still singing. My 
mind, of course, was filled with mingled con- 
fusions; thoughts zigzagging without arrange- 
ment or order or very much definiteness, with 
but a single exception. And that recurred again 
and again until it became an obsession. 

"External evidences had all contributed to a 
satisfactory achievement on my part. In the 
hall I had sung very sincerely each song, and 
the recognition encouraged me to believe that 
my honorarium was being earned. There were 
demands for encores which I was glad enough 
to grant, and the conclusion found me in a haze 
of happiness which did not lift until Maggie, the 
college cook, pushed through those congregated 
about me to add her congratulations to the rest. 

"I saw her coming, her benignant face beam- 
ing and one hand outstretched. 'And did you 
like my singing, Maggie, really?' 'Sure, Johnny, 
darlin', but what did you want to show off your 
education for by singing in them furrin lan- 



guages?' She meant to be kind, dear old Mag- 
gie, and yet that question was like a stab in my 
side. I'd sung nothing save English; English 
from the start to the close, which Maggie knew 
well. I laughed it off and my unconscious critic 
left me with a pat on my shoulder, but her 
query was a disturbing thorn in my momentary 
triumph. For if she had not understood my 
words there must have been others, too, in the 
audience similarly unenlightened as to the texts. 
"This fact I cogitated as I lay between the 
sheets, and wrestled mentally with the possible 
consequences if I proved unequal to conquering 
what must be a defective enunciation. The 
words of a song are its soul and must be heard 
if the poet's message is to be comprehended. I 
had fancied, vainly perhaps, that articulation 
was an asset in my singing, for a large part of 
my attention invariably was focused upon this 
very element when I sang. Something, appar- 
ently, was amiss. An unintelligible word or two 
might be condoned, but to have everything I had 
essayed to convey to my listeners fall upon Mag- 
gie's ears as any possible language foreign to 
her learning that was like a slap in the face, 
and far more humiliating. 



"Thus, from a trivial episode, was I projected 
into a sleepless night. I would doze off, half in 
the lingering ecstasy of my debut, only to waken 
with a jerk to stare into the darkness with eyes 
gazing on disaster. Nor could I escape from the 
reminders of my fault when daybreak came. 
But the lesson was worth learning, and I set at it 
and still am. For never again do I wish such 
an experience as Maggie gave me. It disturbs 
one's pride." 

We walked for some distance after that, Mc- 
Cormack having gone suddenly into a reflective 
mood. I forbore to interfere. I gathered that 
an objective avenue of thought had been opened 
to him from the incident he had told. But from 
time to time on that last half mile of our tramp I 
stole a glance at his face, though vainly, for it was 
as inscrutable as a mask of clay. 

Across the lawn to the house we went, and en- 
tered. And there in the living-room a young 
woman, who had been seated before a desk, 
turned on hearing our steps and rose. 

The pen of a Richard Le Gallienne would be 
needed to describe this charming lady, who is 
known to every McCormack "fan" almost as well 
as the tenor himself. But being only a prosy 



music critic all I can tell you is that she is very 
gracious, and lovely, and that one is at once im- 
pressed by her fine eyes. 

I was ne"aring the door which leads to the 
veranda facing the Sound when Mrs. McCormack 
called to me. "Make yourself at home for a few 
minutes; it's just time for tea." 

And in that phrase if you analyse its inner 
meaning you have Mrs. McCormack. Always 
thinking of the comfort of others. Not her chil- 
dren only (of whom she confidentially assures 
one that John is the littlest) but of all who cross 
the thresholds of her homes, and many who 
never have been inside them. 

She is wife and mother and chum and coun- 
sellor, firm in her mildness, with a far-seeing 
worldly vision and an unselfishness which was 
sufficiently manifested the day she withdrew from 
an already established singing career to devote 
her life to John McCormack's. And should 
your intimacy with the tenor be such as to make 
the question no impertinence, and you put that 
question to him, he would tell you that what he 
has done professionally he could not have done 
without the aid of that selfsame little lady who 
charmed the music public of Great Britain and 



Ireland under her maiden name of Lily Foley. 

She busied herself, after a wifely conference 
with her husband, to see that her servants served 
the tea, and as they should. 

Afterward, having done my duty by certain 
potato-cakes which literally melted in my mouth, 
I strolled off to the tennis courts, where John 
was industriously smiting the ball out of reach 
of a visiting neighbor who played well but 
not well enough. And there, when the set was 
finished and the vanquished neighbor on his 
homeward way, McCormack finished for me the 
tale of his Summerhill College days. 

"That lesson in the necessity of distinct enun- 
ciation which Maggie gave me was one I gave 
more thought to than anything else for the few 
days following my first appearance in public. 
Articulation became the subject more engross- 
ing than anything else, and it was a matter of 
days before my equilibrium was restored suffi- 
ciently to allow me to resume, in normal fashion, 
the course of study and recitation. 

"Aloud, and silently to myself, I would pro- 
nounce the words of a song over and over again. 
It mattered not whether I was in the classroom or 
out of it; I had an objective and steered towards 


< o 


w x 

K rt 

H E 



it with tenacity. My college mates, coming sud- 
denly upon me when I plunged into this practice, 
were at first startled. From the looks some of 
them gave me there appeared a doubt as to my 
sanity; until I at length explained. Instead of 
laughing, as they might have done, they showed 
comforting sympathy. Perhaps their attitude 
may be interpreted as an instance of good wishes, 
for most of my associates were musical and not 
unwilling to have me sing to them whenever my 
fancy chose." 

John might have said, had he been the sort to 
do so, that even as far back as in those times, 
he was more a hero to his classmates than any- 
thing else. He sang, but, also, he played the 
mouth-organ. He played that limited instru- 
ment, Bishop Curley informs me, upon slight 
provocation and with unremitting frequency. 
Apparently, too, he acquired a deal of technical 
facility in various styles of harmonic accom- 
paniment to the tune of the moment. Runs, 
arpeggios, staccati and long-drawn and im- 
pressively held chords John introduced in his 
musical efforts upon this instrument; and part 
of his four shillings, earned from the singing en- 
gagement aforementioned, he put into several 



mouth-organs manufactured in different keys. 
His collection, it appears, at one time, included 
two which bore on their metal sides "Key of C," 
and others similarly branded with G and F. 

Leadership in directions other than music was 
another McCormack tendency at the fifteenth 
year of his life. He was not only a football and 
handball expert, but had developed proficiency 
as a swimmer. And on rare occasions the boys 
revelled in their aquatic excursions with no less 
distinctive guest of honor than their beloved 
Father Hynes. 

"We returned from one of these swims," said 
John, "to find the college president, Dr. Kielty, 
in a stern mood. He was a fine man, an able 
educator and a clear-minded executive; but I 
think he held a mild resentment for our fond- 
ness for Father Hynes. We paused before Dr. 
Kielty when we reached him, a dignified and im- 
posing figure, standing under a tree on the 
campus. We paused, as I have said, frankly 
awed by his demeanor which portended some- 
thing apart from the routine of the day. But his 
message threw us boys off our youthful balance, 
and brought a flush to the cheek of Father 



"In effect, he informed us that on the follow- 
ing day he, Dr. Kielty and no other, would ac- 
company us to the point of departure from the 
river bank into the water; and having thus re- 
lieved his mind he stalked off, a dignified per- 
sonality, leaving us to stare at one another open- 

"The good doctor went out the following after- 
noon, to the appointed rendezvous; went there 
and waited in vain. For we boys rebelled at 
the affront to Father Hynes and remained to 

"So those college days passed, with intermi- 
nable happenings in which the serious and sad 
and comic were intermixed. And in my fifth 
and sixth years at college I found myself coming 
closer and closer to the great Bishop Clancy, 
whose counsel and encouragement spurred me to 
those achievements which I contemplate with 
some pride. 

"But I must have borne scant resemblance to 
a student, for I remember during one vaca- 
tion when I was at home being introduced to 
a visiting neighbour who greeted me, after in- 
troductions, with: 'So this is John Francis, the 



Exhibitioner? I've heard he's clever, but he 
doesn't look it.' " 

McCormack overlooked one achievement to 
his credit while at Summerhill. It might have 
escaped the telling if Bishop Curley, indefati- 
gable soul, had not confided the facts. "It was 
final examinations week," said the Bishop, "and 
John was ill with a sty which rendered seeing 
not only difficult but painful. The boys sym- 
pathized, though they needn't have. For that 
week John made a record. His mark in Latin, 
in which 1200 was the highest mark possible, 
reached 1028; in French he scored 648 points 
out of a possible 700 and was perfect in algebra 
with an unblemished score of 600. 

"He left behind a record which has never since 
been equalled. And I am glad, as he is, too, that 
competing with one hundred and sixty others 
for one of the twenty available places in the 
Royal College of Science he emerged number 
twenty-one. For had he been victorious his 
career would have been other than it has been, 
and the work he has done still have remained un- 




"At eighteen the determination to become a 
singer was a seed firmly implanted in my mind." 
McCormack made this declaration on a cloudy 
morning on the golf course of the Wee Burn Golf 
Club. "My college days were done, the retire- 
ment from endeavors in the direction of the 
priesthood accepted by my father, and Dublin 
was beckoning me onwards. Yet there were a 
few twigs that needed removal from my path. I 
sensed the trend of coming events, but even to 
myself admission was not quite complete. The 
hand of Fate may have been doubtless was 
leading me towards the starting mark whence I 
should take up that journey. Every obstacle I 
sought with full sincerity to remove in my strug- 
gle for the coveted positions, first of priest, then 
of Civil Service clerkship. I like to think that 
I fought as good a fight, and as fair a one, as was 
in me. 



"Even the story Bishop Curley tells about my 
leisurely stroll in Phoenix Park that afternoon 
when the Dublin examination was taking place 
has its rejoinder. In a sense the Bishop is right ; 
he generally is. I probably could have passed 
the examination. But the postal clerkship, had 
I secured it, would have been mechanically filled. 
My alternate, if we may call him such, no doubt 
served the government more efficiently than I 
would have done." 

McCormack teed his golf ball, after these re- 
marks, and sent it down the fairway in a cleanly 
swung two-hundred-and-fifty-yard drive. The 
effort seemed to rid him of some seething element 
in his system, for he relaxed after the blow and 
marking the ball with his eyes turned again to 



I cannot truthfully say that I studied like a 
fiend at Skerries Academy, in Dublin. It was 
a school of specialization," he explained, "de- 
signed to prepare one for just such examinations 
as the Civil Service board prepared. My en- 
trance there came as an aftermath to my failure 
to be one of the twenty who contested for free 
scholarships in the Royal College of Science. I 
really wanted that ; but I finished number twenty- 



one a single unit below requirements, which 
shunted me into the scientific discard. That, if 
you please to believe it, was a touch of Fate's 
hand. For had I won a place . . . 

"I was disappointed. I dislike to lose, in any- 
thing. You've possibly noticed that." 

I had noticed. John is a good sportsman, and 
a clean one ; but he chafes under defeat. I have 
seen him grouch when beaten at tennis, and I 
admire him for it. Because it's a good sign in 
a man; a sign that he's for ever trying. 

"Skerries Academy, because of that College 
of Science failure of mine, became a place of 
momentary refuge; and I think my mind found 
relief from the accusations of that failure in the 
work which I feverishly sought. But instead of 
studying, as had been my custom up to that 
time, I evaded study. My parents had found a 
place for me to live in the home of a worthy 
woman, who was charged to see that I went regu- 
larly to Skerries Academy. So far as the lady 
knew I did go there; at least, she saw me leave 
her house each day, ostensibly bound thither, 
and I returned at a proper hour. It is fortunate, 
for her peace of mind, that she did not know that 
in those hours of absence I was chiefly concerned 



with anything which had no direct connection 
with Skerries. Those first weeks at the academy 
seemed bleak and dry and forlorn. Singing, and 
all thoughts of singing, I put from me resolutely 
in that subconscious way one will when there is 
an inner gnawing of self-censure. It may have 
been foolish, doubtless it was, but it acted as a 
mental tonic. For I began, as time passed, to 
restore my equilibrium and to renew my inter- 
est in what had lain dormant within me during 
those disturbing weeks. 

"Aroused from its siesta, my passion for song 
seized me more firmly than ever. One month 
gave way to another, and all the while I sang 
and practised distinct enunciation of the texts 
of those songs which I was learning in a way to 
make them part of me. There was no relaxation 
in the academy schedule; rather an acceleration 
of my musical nature, which was crystallizing 

"My mind is by no means clear upon the facts 
of that examination day for the second division 
clerkship. I waked in a perfectly normal mood 
and proceeded about the morning's business 
with no qualm as to the outcome of the approach- 
ing competition. The day was fine, with clear 



skies and a beaming sun. The examination was 
easily within my abilities to pass and I knew it. 
So there was nothing to prick my concern. In 
such a frame of mind I turned to Nature, as was 
so frequently my way, for those delights she al- 
ways gave. 

"It is quite probable that in this relaxed and 
imaginative state the balance which preserves 
that nice adjustment between one's practical and 
aesthetic sides swung too far to one way. Un- 
questionably I drifted away from the one and 
very near the other. At luncheon I was ab- 
stracted that much I recall. Afterward came 
the desire to walk abroad by myself, which I in- 

"I concede the danger I was in, but, frankly, I 
did not sense it. There was ample time for a 
walk, and Phoenix Park lay at no considerable 
distance. As I had often done before, I gravi- 
tated in that direction by force of habit. 

"Once within its verdant boundaries, one 
forgot the rest of the world. There was peaceful 
quiet; a solitude that soothed and encouraged. 
Tree-branches seemed to nod at me, and the wind- 
blown grass and the flowers bent in my direction 
as if conscious of how I felt. The hum of Dub- 



lin was far removed: no hurry of pedestrians 
dodging the grind of traffic, nor newsboys' cries 
of their wares nor other sounds of worldly strife 
of the day. Only a tranquillity of which I con- 
tinued to drink. No one was near; I began to 
sing. . . ." 

"Then you really forgot?" 

We had been walking, all this time, in the 
direction of that excellent drive of his. Mc- 
Cormack stopped before the little sphere of white 
and dropped the head of his brassie alongside an 
inviting lie. He looked up at the question but 
past me, into the distance. The barest inclina- 
tion of his head was his sole assent. 

So I respected his mood by moving leisurely 
off, and to one side, as if to allow him full play 
in the next stroke. He was almost staring at me 
as I turned round; and I fancied his eyes held 
an appreciative look, a mute endorsement of my 
act which left him free of any explanation he did 
not care to voice. 

A week or so later, however, and with startling 
unexpectedness, John mentioned the Phoenix 
Park incident again. Very briefly, 'tis true, but 
in words. "I became absorbed, that afternoon, 



and forgot." That was an end to it, and I never 
referred to the occurrence thereafter. 

"Do you believe in suggestions?" 

"What sort?" I countered. 

"Other people's?" 

"For instance?" 

"Well," he replied, then, after a long pause 
"being told that you should do so-and-so; that 
the world offers a chance in some particular di- 
rection, in the performance of a particular ca- 
pacity for which you seem to have a special apti- 

"Without a doubt. Nearly every one is in- 
fluenced by what the world says and thinks. 
And no man, or woman, is free from being af- 
fected positively or the reverse by what 
friends suggest." 

"Same here," agreed John; "it was that way 
in 1903, in Dublin. After the Dublin postal 
clerkship fiasco if we may term it that I took 
singing by the hand and gave it a sound shake. 
It was as if we were pals joining forces with a 
resolution never to part. The whole circum- 
stance had come about so naturally that I felt 
no blame. Perhaps it was the feeling that it 
was all for the best, as it has since proved. 



"It was about that time that my friends, one 
after the other, began proffering advice. They 
all agreed. I was destined to have a singing 
career and was a fool not to see it. There was 
power in these suggestions, a world of it; and I 
was not insensible to entertaining a fondness for 
hearing what they said. I was heeding, too, 
more willingly than I knew; for directly I let 
myself fall into the ways of their thinking and 
before winter passed music had me for a life 

"One man drove the last spike in my rail of 
decision Vincent O'Brien. I said earlier in 
our talks if you remember that I felt deeply 
obligated to a very few. Well, one of those 
few is Vincent O'Brien. He was organist of 
Marlborough Street Cathedral, in Dublin; a 
splendid musician, a fine man, and a staunch 
friend. He had vision and appeared, intuitively, 
to feel that all I needed was study and oppor- 
tunity to achieve a goal worthy of serious aspira- 
tions. It was good to feel, as I often did, that 
he was right; yet I dared not allow myself to 
share the hopes, in so positive a manner, which 
O'Brien consistently held. He never wavered, 
and his convictions buoyed and steadied me 



mightily in my doubting moments. I was the 
tenor in O'Brien's choir, at one hundred and 
twenty-five dollars a year, and it was this that 
caused me to ask myself occasionally if my organ- 
ist-friend was not over-prejudiced. 

"The manner of how it all came about is, I 
conclude, in order. Dr. Dudley Forde did me 
the service of introducing me to Vincent 
O'Brien, and many's the time I've breathed 
for him my everlasting gratitude. The doctor 
was house surgeon in the Mater Misericordiae 
Hospital, of Dublin ; a lover of singing and con- 
sidered a judge of it. That I had attracted his 
favorable notice was a comfort to me, though it 
was some time afterward that I was to discover 
how much that was to mean. 

"Shortly before Dr. Forde introduced me to 
Vincent O'Brien I had had a talk with a young 
Athlone attorney named John Walsh, whose 
attainments and personal charm made him, at 
twenty-seven, one of the most influential and best 
loved men in the city. He was forever doing 
something for others; an altruist, if ever there 
was one. It was in December, 1902, soon after 
my unintentional deviation from the Civil Serv- 
ice examination, that Walsh said to me: 'Mac, 



why don't you run up to Dublin to see Charles 
Manners, of the Moody-Manners Opera Com- 
pany? Your voice ought to fit there like a 

"I explained my inability, through lack of 
funds, and like a shot he retorted, 'That's easily 
fixed.' He slipped into my hand the money for 
the journey, gave me a push and a slap on the 
back. His words, 'Good luck, Mac,' were the 
last I ever heard him say. For, before I re- 
turned, he was taken ill with typhoid fever and 
died shortly after I reached Athlone, being in 
extremis when I reached home. It wrung my 
heart when I learned that, in his last hours, he 
kept asking for me. 'Is Mac back, yet?' he 
would repeatedly inquire. 'How did he come 
out?' Poor boy; perhaps he knows, now, what 
his friendship did for me. I carried with me, 
and do to this day, the influence of his staunch 
faith and comradeship. 

"The interview with Charles Manners led to 
nothing. He was a precise man, on the lookout 
for a bargain which he concluded lay neither in 
my throat nor in my soul. I sang to him, then 
walked into the front of the house for his verdict. 
He sat curled up in one of the chairs in the the- 



atre, his face pushed into the fingers of his right 
hand. But his interest was mild. The best he 
could offer me, he said, was a place in the chorus. 

"Although I had not imagined that a contract 
would result from my Moody-Manners expedi- 
tion, the rebuff discouraged me. The position 
he offered was of course the cause. And then, 
it was the first occasion of such indifferent 
treatment. I spent the time during the railway 
ride back to Athlone debating inwardly the ex- 
tent of my capacities, and speculating upon the 
exact value of my friends' encouragements. 
But that faith which I had in myself a faith I 
honestly feel to have been something remote 
from conceit never ceased its silent endeavors 
to buoy me. I am not a fighter, in the physical 
sense. It is only when there is a mental en- 
counter that I seem not to waver or lack the forti- 
tude to meet an issue. Descending from the 
railway carriage at Athlone station I found this 
to be my mood. And I hurried to Walsh's 
home, where they told me the sad news." 

The tenor reached for a handkerchief to wipe 
the moisture from his face, and I wondered, see- 
ing the bit of linen across mouth and nose and 
eyes, if it were due to the heat and nothing else. 



"Let's see," said McCormack, with assumed 
gruffness, "I'm playing four here, am I not?" 


"Well, watch me hole out." He was twenty 
feet from the cup, but the ball rolled true as a 
die to its mark. His partner, from his place at 
the edge of the green, exclaimed in disgust: 
"For sheer luck " 

" And putting skill," reminded McCormack, 
as imperturbable as if such a feat were a common 

" you Irish beat us southerners." 

John admitted the superiority and demanded 
solemnly of me, as scorekeeper, how many up he 
was. After that incident he played the next two 
holes in silence; nor did he complain when, at- 
tempting an awkward recovery from a lie against 
the outcropping root of a tree, he split the club, 
his pet spoon, with a stroke that sent it spin- 
ning yards away. He didn't thaw into a talka- 
tive mood again until we had finished our lemon- 
ades John drank his without sugar and had 
left the club-house for the tenor's waiting road- 
ster. With the whirr of the motor, spun into life 
by the self-starter, he spoke. 

"Dr. Forde took me to Vincent O'Brien soon 


after that cheerful trip to see Charlie Manners," 
announced John. "O'Brien needed a tenor, 
and the doctor had suggested that he hear me. 
The experience was a horse of another color. 
O'Brien was as positive as Manners was nega- 
tive; so much so that he volunteered to have 
Edward Martin listen to my voice. Martin, an 
Irish playwright of means whose fad was music, 
had endowed the Marlborough Street Cathedral 
choir, and out of courtesy O'Brien wished to con- 
sult him before engaging so important a member 
for the organization (which it then needed) as 
a tenor. 

"Martin came over to the cathedral, and I 
sang to him, in the choir room. It was a good- 
sized place, but my voice though smaller than 
it is now was telling in quality. I watched my 
critic while I sang for some sign of approval; 
but Martin allowed me nothing, from any out- 
ward evidence, on which to base a hope. And 
when I had finished what do you suppose he 

I said I had no idea. 

"He said," replied McCormack, with a laugh, 
"that my voice, he feared, was too large for the 



That did seem odd. "Then he turned you 

"No; O'Brien explained that in the audito- 
rium of the cathedral the voice would not 
give such an impression. This appeared to 
satisfy Martin, and he told the organist to go 
ahead, if he liked, and engage me. I walked out 
of the cathedral a happy young man. I had a 
choir position, a salary of one hundred and 
twenty five dollars a year, and the music road 
showed clear ahead.' 



He was swimming, just beyond the end of the 
McCormack pier, with a double over-arm stroke ; 
a smallish figure, like a boy's, from the spot 
where I stood watching. He turned, presently, 
to retrace his course, and as he swam nearer I 
saw he was a boy. He came on, using a narrow 
kick to his legs that drove him at a considerable 
speed through the choppy brine. At the ladder 
he stopped, trod water for a moment, and then 
ascended leisurely to where I stood. 

"Good morning, Cyril; how's the tempera- 

"F-ff-i-i-ne!" announced the scion of the 
McCormack household, at the same time kicking 
alternately with right and left legs to dislodge 
the remaining drops of water from his ears. 
"Go ahead," he suggested, "and get into your 
bathing-suit; the water's great." 

He appeared to me, as he stood there with a 
smile on his. face, a likely-looking boy. Eleven 



and very self-contained. And with no trace of 
affectation, such as might be expected in a youth 
whose father's celebrity had been thoroughly 
dinned into his impressionable mind. A clean- 
limbed youngster, too, rather deep of chest and 
with a pair of shoulders that will some day rival 
his father's. I was not sorry, as I stood there 
looking into his eyes, which returned my gaze 
with easy frankness, that Cyril has a well-bal- 
anced little brain. For he's more than ordi- 
narily good-looking. 

John arrived at this juncture, in a particularly 
jubilant mood. 

"Come on, Pop; come on in," said McCor- 
mack junior, who leaped then to the rail of the 
pier, poised there impudently and dove. He 
cut the water as a knife cuts butter, and went 
from our sight, leaving behind him on the sur- 
face only the tiniest splash. 

"The little dare-devil," commented John 
(with some pride, too). "What did he think, 
that I'd follow with my clothes on?" But he 
obeyed Cyril's demand by starting for the house 
for apparel suitable for the swim he takes each 
morning. "Come on yourself," he said to me, 
"and don't take all day." 



We passed Mrs. McCormack, Gwenny, and 
Miss Josephine B. Foley (Mrs. McCormack' s 
charming sister) on their way to the beach. 
They were clad for bathing, too, and added their 
suggestions to Cyril's that we lose no time to 
join them in a forenoon dip. A quarter of an 
hour later found us in the Sound, an amphibious 
sextette, and making a great to-do about the 

When we had finished and dressed again and 
were seated on the veranda, McCormack resumed 
his narrative. 

"I feel almost as happy, this morning, as the 
day I got that Marlborough Street Cathedral 
job," confided the tenor; and he looked it. 

"The good fortune interfered with that night's 
sleep," he went on, "but I got up unfatigued; 
excitement has its virtues. I met O'Brien and 
went with him into executive session. He 
wanted to know if I read music. I admitted 
that I could not. 'All right,' he replied, 'come 
on up to the house, and we'll see how well you 
can do in a first trial.' 

"He propped a piece of music on the piano 
rack and we began. I estimated the distance be- 
tween notes, and as my musical instinct was 



strong I did fairly well. 'Hm,' mused Vincent, 
'some lessons wouldn't hurt you any.' He gave 
me one then and I continued with him in learn- 
ing the tonic sol-fa system. Up to that moment 
my father and mother, as I mentioned once be- 
fore, had been my sole instructors, and their 
musical knowledge, as you may have guessed, was 
not extensive. So this advantage which O'Brien 
laid before me was invaluable ; it meant the start 
of a foundation I have since tried to make secure. 
"Within a few weeks I again met Dr. Forde. 
'How goes it at the Cathedral?' inquired the good 
doctor. Then, before I could answer, he said: 
'That reminds me, why don't you enter in the 
Feis Coeil?' This, as you are doubtless aware, 
is an Irish musical festival in which competitive 
singing between individual types of voices 
sopranos, tenors and so forth forms the princi- 
pal interest. The winner in each division re- 
ceives a gold medal and considerable prestige. 
I knew that the list of entrants had been com- 
pleted and so informed the doctor. 

'That is true,' he admitted, 'but an entry 
can be made, even after the closing date ; it merely 
requires a fee of ten shillings.' Ten shillings! 
It might as well have been a hundred. Dr. 



Forde saw my look, and interpreting it aright 
asked if I hadn't the necessary money. I nodded 
my head. 'Don't worry,' he said comfortingly, 
'you enter and I will supply the ten shillings.' 

"Of course I went at once to Vincent O'Brien. 
'There'll be two compositions every tenor will be 
obliged to sing,' was the information he gave. 
They were Handel's 'Tell Fair Irene,' an aria, by 
the way, which I but recently felt I sang well 
enough to put on my concert programmes, and 
'The Snowy Breasted Pearl.' There wasn't 
much time for their preparation. O'Brien inti- 
mated as much and directed me to get the music 
and bring it to him. Til teach you,' he said. 
'But I have no money with which to pay you.' 
'Who asked you to pay me?' he gruffly demanded. 
'I said I would teach you ; wait till I ask you for 
money before you talk about it.' I felt rather 
meek at that, but too grateful to venture any ex- 
pression. I hurried to a music store, got the 
songs and Vincent began to coach me. 

"He is one of the finest accompanists alive: 
a thorough musician, with rare feeling for a com- 
position, a subtle understanding of the singer's 
intentions and superlative skill in giving one the 
musical and moral support in the interpretation. 



Edwin Schneider, my present accompanist, is 
such another. 

"O'Brien was very patient in the coaching; 
and just as thorough. Over and over again he 
would drill me in a phrase until I was able to 
approach somewhat nearly to what he sought. 
I will not say that he was satisfied ; but when the 
task was done he said to me : 'Sing those songs 
as well at the Feis as you just sang them and 
you will win.' I felt my breath catch at his 
prediction I really did not believe I had more 
than an outsider's chance." 

Mrs. McCormack, Miss Foley and the two chil- 
dren interrupted the story at this point by com- 
manding us to luncheon. And during that, and 
other meals served in the McCormack household, 
I marvelled at the tenor's rigidity at denying 
himself those things of which he is fond pastries 
and such, which he contends he is better off, as 
a singer, without. The duty of eating concluded, 
John strolled out upon the veranda. He lighted 
a cigarette and, comfortably ensconced in his 
favorite chair, he resumed : 

"The hall was packed that first Feis after- 
noon," he said, "several thousand people, 
many of whom had come miles to Dublin for that 



occasion. And every tenor and baritone and 
soprano and contralto had 'rooters'; but silent 
rooters, for applause was forbidden. I made my 
way to a spot in a corner of the hall, not far from 
the stage. In half an hour the judges called the 
first of the fourteen tenors who were competing, 
and the content was on. 

"Eight of these tenors sang, and none of them 
disturbed materially my peace of mind. Three 
of the remaining five, however, did, one espe- 
cially. This chap was William Rathborne, a 
matured singer and very evidently, by the actions 
of the audience, the favorite. He sang both 
songs very well, I thought; yet some of his 
phrases would not have got by Vincent O'Brien 
if O'Brien had been coaching him. Rathborne 
finished and stepped down from the platform. 
As he passed down the aisle toward the dressing- 
room, which brought him near me, I saw him take 
his left hand in his right and press it with con- 
gratulatory fervor. It may appear to have been 
a presumptuous act; I thought it such, and was 
inclined to smile. Also, that act of Rathborne's 
of shaking hands with himself on his assumed vic- 
tory struck me as a trifle previous. It made 
something inside me rebel, and straightway there 



was born a resolve to teach him a lesson if I 

"Put you in a properly scrappy mood, was that 

"I daresay. At any rate, all the undesirable 
part of my long-continued nervousness promptly 
vanished. And I walked, as my name was 
called, to the platform and over to the piano 
where Hamilton Harty sat waiting. Harty, now 
a distinguished composer, was the official accom- 
panist for the Feis. But when my turn came he 
was tired. There is a point, however, which de- 
mands relating before I tell about how I sang. 

"As Rathborne passed me I heard a familiar 
voice, just back of me, say : 'W-w-w-willie, you 
r-a-an away with it.' I recognized the speaker 
to be J. C. Doyle, Dublin's popular baritone, who 
stuttered. He had heard me sing, and when I 
caught what he said I quailed. If that were 
Doyle's belief my chances, probably, were small. 
Then the baritone spoke again, and turning my 
head our gazes met. 'What, you here, Mac? 
Gad, W-w-willie, wait a minute, n-o-ot yet. 
There's a dark horse who's likely to spoil your 

"So you may imagine I walked over to Harty 


with some feeling of confidence. Well, we fi- 
nally began. But Harty, as I intimated, was 
physically worn out. He wanted to get through, 
and quickly; and he played the introductory 
measures of 'Tell Fair Irene' as though he had a 
train to make. It was a tempo twice as fast as 
O'Brien had taught me was the correct one; a 
tempo, likewise, too rapid to permit of good sing- 
ing, to say nothing of interpreting Handel's music 
as he intended. 

"There was only one thing to do and I did it. 
I turned around and informed Harty I had 
learned the aria in a way different from the way he 
was playing it. 'Please take it just half as fast,' 
I requested. Instead of objecting he only 
smiled. He probably thought : 'The poor boy, 
well, let him have his way.' But I hadn't gone 
far before Harty settled down and played for me 
one of the finest accompaniments I have ever 
sung to. He was a sportsman to the tips of his 
talented fingers, and he gave me all there was 
musically in him. 

"With my last note there came from the 
audience a volley of applause ; one of those spon- 
taneous demonstrations which one gets intuitively 
to reflect the feelings of an audience. Perhaps 



it was the pure quality of my voice, or my youth, 
or both that prompted it. They forgot for the 
moment that they were breaking a rule of long 
standing. At any rate, the applause went on 
for some moments nor did the judges interfere. 

"You may believe that the incident heartened 
me; no doubt it had its effect upon the jury, 
which was one of the reasons for forbidding that 
very thing. I began, then, 'My Snowy Breasted 
Pearl,' which I may have sung better than 'Tell 
Fair Irene.' 

"And the verdict?" I queried. 

"The verdict," responded the tenor, "was 


He rose, then, and went to meet Bob, his 
gardener, who was busy on another part of his 
estate cutting hay. I did not see McCormack 
for several hours. He came across to the tennis 
courts, where I sat watching two amateur cracks 
at play, with the collar of his outing shirt open 
and evidences of having participated in manual 

'Tis an easier game, tennis," he declared, 
"than pitching hay. But my muscles still cry 
out for exercise, so I'll take on both of you." He 
did, and beat them. 



It was while we were running along the Con- 
necticut shore of Long Island Sound, in McCor- 
mack's motor-driven fishing dory, that he pro- 
ceeded with the story of his life. The sun was 
low in the west, the sky forbidding with a vault 
of low-lying clouds. It looked stormy and John 
put about and headed for Rocklea. 

"The gold medal I was awarded as winner of 
the tenor contest at the Feis decided my future. 
I determined to abandon all efforts at anything 
else; so May 14, 1903, may stand as the pivotal 
date in my career. As the competition was an 
open one to all residents of the British Isles some 
reputation attached to the winner in each divi- 
sion. I profited; and another profited, a young 
soprano, Miss Lily Foley, whom I had never met. 
Miss Foley had surpassed her rivals with aston- 
ishing ease : her lyric voice (one of the smoothest 
I've ever heard) and breadth of style and finish 
were used in a way to let none who heard forget. 
As I listened to her, at the Feis, I thought to my- 
self, Td like to sing with her.' And in the fall 
of that same year I had my wish. 

"Up to then," explained the tenor, "I had 
never heard an opera. Though I was nineteen 
my understanding of this form of musical art was 



nil; I hadn't so much as a bowing acquaintance 
with anything or anyone operatic, much as I 
yearned for both. It was in that year, 1903, 
that I listened to and saw my first opera; 
it was a performance of 'Cavalleria Rusticana' 
and 'I Pagliacci,' those two works which usually 
are presented in what is known as a double-bill. 
The Moody-Manners Company gave the per- 
formance, in Dublin. 'Cavalleria' was the 
first offering, and my attention centered quite 
naturally on the tenor. He was an American, 
Francis Maclennan, and he had a clear, ringing 
voice, a convincing style and has acquired just 
fame as a fine Wagnerian exponent. I could 
scarcely sit still in my excitement and when the 
curtain dropped on the opera I was trembling. 

"I sat through the intermission living over 
again the performance of Mascagni's opera and 
only emerged from my ecstatic daze when the 
overture to Tagliacci' began and the baritone 
came out to sing the prologue. Philip Brozel 
was the Canio in this opera, and I consider him 
one of the best I have ever heard in the role. I 
left the theatre in some mental confusion, for, 
though impressed, I was by no means convinced 



that opera represented the highest form of either 
art or singing. Since then I have come to know 
that opera really is a hybrid being neither one 
thing or the other, but a mixture of elements 
which tend to restrict its freest utterances in 
music, text, acting and pictorial illusion. And 
nowhere is the singer so handicapped as in opera, 
as I shall show later on. Nevertheless, on that 
evening, I envied the two tenors, Maclennan and 
Brozel, and fell to wondering if I should ever find 
myself doing what they were doing so well. 

"After a summer's vacation, spent with my 
parents in Athlone, I set about finding work for 
my voice and such art as I commanded. En- 
gagements came, and not so many, either, at in- 
significant sums: ten, fifteen, twenty shillings 
each. But my musical equipment grew. I 
found in Vincent O'Brien an efficient instructor, 
and the music we performed in the cathedral was 
an education in itself. Palestrina compositions 
were freely used ; others by illustrious composers, 
also, so that much of the best to be had became 
necessary for me to learn, under careful guid- 
ance. So my abilities steadily grew. And as 
I obtained concert appearances, in other cities 



and towns besides Dublin, I acquired by degrees 
further security and was enabled to provide in- 
creasing satisfaction to my hearers. 

"But my income was small, and the stretching 
of financial ends to make them meet something 
of a job. Still, I persisted. My faith endured. 
And one day I was summoned to appear in a 
concert which William Ludwig one of the most 
distinguished baritones Ireland has produced 
was preparing to give. 

"I was recovering from a cold the morning I 
went to rehearsal and was coughing. Ludwig, 
as bluff in his manner as his heart was big, did 
not approve of the cough. My boyish appear- 
ance doubtless stirred in him a fatherly concern, 
for he gazed in assumed sternness at me and said : 
'John, I don't like that cough. You need some- 
body to take care of you, and here's the girl to do 
it. Let me introduce you to Miss Lily Foley.' 

"That was the way of it; the precise manner 
my wife and I met. I was a bit bashful in those 
days and must have blushed. Lily's cheeks, too, 
showed a hint at more than the color I had be- 
held for I'll admit I had seen her some mo- 
ments before being introduced, and had utilized 
each moment. She had a reputation, you must 



know, as something more than a soprano singer. 
I'll not equivocate: she was called a beauty." 

"So you decided, then and there, to make her 
Mrs. McCormack?" 

"Wait, man! Not so fast. There were 
others who had plans to marry the lady, as I'd 
been told. No, indeed. I made no such de- 
cision as that. I was more concerned over dis- 
posing of my hands, which seemed suddenly to 
have grown and gotten discomfortingly in my 

"But you" 

"It was to be an important concert," said Mc- 
Cormack, conclusively, and he lighted another 

" admired her?" 

"I did," he admitted, having been brought to 
a reply. "I did and do and shall so continue. 
But let me proceed. There was a notable Dub- 
lin audience for that concert ; many people from 
other places who anticipated an event. Miss 
Foley sang, in that glorious lyric soprano of hers, 
and I listened and was glad. Others appeared 
glad, also, if their applause may count as the 
measure of their gladness. But for me it was 
her art and the finished authority she displayed. 



It seemed so very easy, as she sang; none of the 
facial distortion or writhing of body which is too 
customarily to be seen. She just stood there, 
like a feminine Irish rose, and brought everyone 
to her feet. 

"It is a just tribute to one of the greatest sing- 
ers Ireland ever produced to say, at this point, 
that William Ludwig was a supreme artist. A 
Mr. Walker, an accompanist whose father knew 
Mendelssohn well, tells of having played for 
Ludwig the song, 'There is a Green Hill Far 
Away.' When the baritone reached the phrase 
which runs 'There was no other good enough,' 
Walker says that he was so completely under the 
spell of Ludwig's art that he stopped playing, the 
better to listen. He stopped his accompaniment 
mechanically, and neither he nor the audience 
was aware that for some time there was no piano, 
so marvelous was the reality of Ludwig's sing- 

Other concerts in which McCormack and Miss 
Foley appeared followed that one. And the 
months passed, carrying John from one place to 
another, with voice and experience expanding 
and his faith expanding, too. 

Then came the day of a certain Mr. Riordon, 

Mrs. John McCormack, with the children, Cyril and Gwendolyn 


from St. Louis, Missouri, U. S. A. It was an 
April day with summer approaching; a period 
unproductive in the earning capacities of the 
tenor, who was giving that matter thought. 
Riordon represented the owners of The Irish 
Village, then being built at the World's Fair, at 
St. Louis, and among other needs were those for 
two of Ireland's representative singers. Many 
he met, but the two whose recommendations im- 
pressed him most were John McCormack and 
Lily Foley. 

"The wind was glowing gustily the morning 
Riordon came to see me," said McCormack. 
"He was one of that direct type of man, who 
curtails whatever preliminaries another might 
indulge. He was willing, he stated, to furnish 
me transportation to St. Louis and return to Dub- 
lin, pay me ten pounds a week and guarantee an 
engagement of six months. In return for all 
this which loomed a fortune to me I was to 
appear twice a day in the performance to be given 
in the Irish Village, a performance partly musical 
and partly theatrical. Some of it, I was to dis- 
cover, was not considerate of the Irish people. 

"Riordon was a plausible man and the thought 
of a visit to the United States anything but dis- 



tasteful. Friends, whose advice I sought, in- 
fluenced me to accept, which was what I was 
moved to do. I consequently signed the con- 
tract Riordon prepared. 

"Miss Foley had already sailed for she, too, 
had succumbed to Riordon's offer so my jour- 
ney to Queenstown and across the Atlantic was a 
lonesome affair. I felt the pangs of homesick- 
ness before I was fifty miles away from Dublin, 
but they were as nothing to those destined to 
come. And I never knew until my return that 
my father would have prevented my going to 
America had the gang-plank not been thrown off 
from the tender the moment it was. 'Two sec- 
onds more, John,' said my father afterward, 'and 
I shouldn't have let you go.' The steamer I 
sailed on was the Lucania, a boat on which I made 
subsequent trips between America and Ireland." 




"Never will the first sight of New York, and 
the harbor, fade from my memory. The thrill 
of it still lingers. Our ship moved up the bay, 
very slowly as if impressed as I was by the view 
which lay before and which caught and held my 
gaze till I blinked. It was like nothing I had 
seen or imagined before : a sweep of broad waters 
ahead, with the shorelines of Staten Island and 
Long Island to left and right, and dead forward 
of our bows the Statue of Liberty. All this I 
saw first. Then my gaze, elevated, fell upon 
lower Manhattan, upon the peaks of its towers 
that were made peaks by mortal hands, not by 
Nature. And as I leaned there against the ship's 
rail, my feet hard upon the deck, I wondered 
what that land held in store for me if anything. 

"I have been called psychic; perhaps I am. 
But whether or not, I experienced a strange sen- 



sation as of good and ill meeting and refusing 
to merge. I remained there, my arms leveled 
on the rail, for as long as it took to move past the 
Battery and on up the North River to the ship's 
berth. I roused, then, went below and at ten 
o'clock on the morning of Friday, June 7, 1904, 
I set foot for the first time on the soil of the coun- 
try which is now my home ; the country I love and 
of which I shall be a full-fledged citizen in Janu- 
ary, Nineteen Nineteen." 

"The first sight ashore that caused my jaw to 
drop was the breadth of West Street and the jam 
of its traffic. I dimly remember getting into a 
cab with friends and a careening ride, punctuated 
with numerous abrupt stops at street-crossings, 
which terminated at some hotel, I know not 
where. I was in New York for two days, which I 
spent in strolling about in wonderment at the 
unusual sights. Then I was taken to the old 
Grand Central Station and boarded a train that 
pulled slowly towards St. Louis. 

"Hundreds of thousands of miles I have ridden 
on railway trains since that day, most of it in the 
United States. But practice has made me no 
more willing traveler than I was then. I dis- 
like it, immensely ; nor would I yield were it not 



for my audiences, who are so many and so widely 
apart that I can go better to them than to ask 
them to come to me. 

"But to get into the story again I was on 
my way; in a curious turn of mind if not exactly 
rejoicing. And some thirty hours later I 
alighted in the Union Station in St. Louis, weary, 
dirty, I fear, and in need of refreshing. I was 
taken to a boarding-house where accommoda- 
tions had been reserved for me (those were not 
days of sufficient affluence to permit the luxury 
of a first-class hotel) ; and my first efforts lay in 
the direction of soap and much water. 

"I felt better when I had tubbed, but there 
was another craving to grant. I needed a shave. 
And there came to me, in the room of that St. 
Louis boarding-house, a longing to slip into a 
barber's chair and have another perform the task. 
The more I considered it the stronger the desire 
grew, and I ended in an establishment which 
looked invitingly clean. It was clean ; that must 
have been the proprietor's axiom; to clean 
cleanly those customers of easy guile. For they 
charged me, for a shave and the polishing of my 
boots, the not inconsiderable sum of one dollar 
and sixty cents." 



"You're not in earnest; you don't mean I'm 
to swallow such a yarn as that?" 

"It's no yarn," said John severely, "but the 
truth. A dollar and sixty cents, that's the 
amount. And at the end of the week my opinion 
of the United States got another shock. I had 
accepted the tender of ten pounds a week. Well, 
in my mind a pound in English money is five dol- 
lars in America's; so I naturally expected to re- 
ceive fifty dollars. But what do you suppose 
that business-like Riordon paid me?" 

I had not recovered sufficient breath to reply, 
so McCormack supplied the answer without any 
request on my part. 

"He paid me, the stingy beggar, forty-eight 
dollars and a half; that's what ten pounds came 
to, figuring the prevailing rate of exchange." 

"Very nifty." 

"Very nothing," retorted the tenor. He 
hadn't recovered from his disgust; it is probable 
that he never will. "But," he went on, "I real- 
ized Riordon was within his rights: We argued 
the matter. When I saw his determination I 
knew it was no use. And that incident, with 
the other of the barber shop, left I can assure 
you a most unfavorable impression of America 



upon my unworldly mind. Of course," he sup- 
plemented, "it was transitory. I've laughed 
since as you laughed about the one-sixty yet I 
still have a sympathetic feeling for that lonely 
boy, John McCormack; only nineteen, in a 
strange land thousands of miles from home and 
being mistreated." 

"But you had Miss Foley." 

"I had nothing of the sort. To speak truth- 
fully, Miss Foley never so much as left the stage, 
where she was rehearsing, when I first saw her in 
the Irish Village. I recall, distinctly, that she 
only waved her hand and called down to me: 'I 
hope you saw father before you left. Did you 
have a nice trip?' Oh, no! So far as I was 
then concerned Miss Foley was a most exclusive 
young person." 

"When did you propose? It happened in St. 
Louis, I believe." 

"Yes, though some weeks later, when my 
courage was nearer par. But before I asked 
her," said the tenor, "I found myself mechani- 
cally repeating what Forbes Robertson had said 
to me, when I asked him how it happened that 
Tony Navarro was so blessed as to win for his 
wife Mary Anderson, whose friendship I so dearly 



cherish. Robertson had replied to my question: 
'He had to wade knee-deep through admirers.' 
Well / had to wade knee-deep through admir- 
ers to win Lily Foley. 

"In the meantime to go back I went about 
the Fair Grounds and became acquainted with 
the theatre in the Irish Village where I was 
to appear. It was attractive enough; cheaply 
built, of course, but sufficient for the purposes. 
I pulled myself together and a few days later be- 
gan my work. 

"But there was something askew. Perhaps 
intuition flashed a message that trouble lay ahead. 
I only know that one afternoon, six weeks after 
commencing that engagement, I saw something 
on the stage of the theatre that aroused my Irish 
blood in hot resentment. The Irish people are 
my people, and I'll not stand by and have them 
mistreated or slurred. 

"I was ready to go on, and stood to one side 
in the wings, when one of the members of the 
company a new member passed me and 
stepped before the audience. He was made up 
with red side-whiskers, a bit of putty on the end 
of his nose to give it a further tilt upwards and 
he wore a green coat. From his mouth pro- 



truded a clay pipe. My first impulse was to fol- 
low and forcibly remove this caricature of an 
Irishman from the stage; prudence, however, 
forbade. I stood for a few moments watching 
his clownish antics; remained as long as my pa- 
tience endured, and then I sought the manage- 
ment of the theatre. 

"I explained that this man was insulting a fine 
people, and requested that his 'act,' as it was 
called, be eliminated, or at least remodeled to 
truthful lines. The manager only curled his lip. 
'He is amusing the people, and that's why we 
hired him.' 

"I was furious to the point of being ready to 
fight. Again I demanded the removal of the 
offensive act, which was as positively refused. 
Then I played what I considered my trump card. 
'Either he goes,' I said, 'or I go.' The manager 
inclined his head and replied, 'Very well.' 

"I received what was due me, that afternoon, 
and never again did I sing in that place. 

"Miss Foley, staunch champion of Ireland, 
too, said I had done exactly right. 'Go back 
home, John,' she counseled; Til follow you 
soon.' I lingered a few days. I couldn't bear 
to leave the girl I loved, and to whom I was then 



engaged. But her salary it was larger than 
mine was something to consider; and she was 
gaining notable success. For she danced with 
the skill of a premiere and was an actress of such 
merit that she had attracted an offer from Will J. 
Davis to star her in light opera. So we agreed 
that it was wisest for me to sail home alone. 

"But before I went I had a long talk with a Dr. 
Cameron, who was stationed there in his capacity 
of a United States Army physician in charge of 
the Philippine Marine Band. The doctor and 
I had had many visits, sitting together in the Irish 
Village after Miss Foley and I had finished ap- 
pearing in the theatre. Dr. Cameron was one 
of those believed in me. I can hear his words, 
even now: 'You have a future, young man, but 
this climate isn't the best one for your voice. 
Italy is the place for you ; Italy, with its balmy air 
and the singing teachers. You mustn't stay 
here, lad, the climate will ruin your delicate 
voice. If you can't get out of this engagement 
I'll give you a doctor's certificate.' 

"He reminded me, again, of Italy in that con- 
cluding talk we had. Somehow it made more 
of an impression that June afternoon, fourteen 


years ago, than ever before. 'You really think 
so, doctor?' I remember having said. And he 
answered : 'Some day you will find out for your- 

"I have never seen Dr. Cameron since, though 
I've tried very hard to discover his whereabouts. 
I hope should this paragraph ever reach his 
eyes that he will communicate with me. For 
I feel that I owe him a debt, and that the period 
of payment is long past due." 

At other times, previous to the official begin- 
ning of setting down the facts contained in this 
volume, McCormack had mentioned Dr. 
Cameron: once, nine years ago, in the lobby of 
the Manhattan Opera House, in New York, when 
the tenor was with Oscar Hammerstein, and as 
recently as last winter, after a performance of 
"La Boheme," in the Metropolitan. At neither 
of these moments, nor during other whose specific 
places I do not recall, did he seem so concerned. 
On that June afternoon, in the year Nineteen 
Hundred Eighteen, he was like one sorrowing 
for a lost friend. 

Nor did John forget to mention, as an asso- 
ciate and dear friend at the Irish Village who was 



warmly received, Miss Marie Narelle, a soprano 
whose voice and singing have since been heard in 
some notable concerts. 

We were not far from Rocklea, the fishing- 
dory bowling along at a good eight knots and 
rolling in the rising sea. McCormack sat at the 
wheel looking shorewards under knitted brows 
that showed he had not done thinking about that 
United States Army physician who passed from 
the tenor's life as abruptly as he entered it. He 
was too busy with his thoughts to notice my 
scrutiny; but I observed the gradual relaxing of 
his concern in the task of piloting his craft. 

"I'm developing an appetite," he announced, 
as we rounded a point of land that put us into the 
lee of the wind and somewhat under the shelter 
of a part of (Hollander, Point. "I had one just 
like it the day I landed in Queenstown, after my 
first American visit, in the late summer of 1904. 
We'd had a good voyage. And I was nearing 
my beloved Ireland, which helped to lighten the 
heaviness of my heart which beat for another 
heart in St. Louis. But my experience had 
helped, and I really believe I had less diffidence 
than when my destination^had lain the opposite 
way. Perhaps it was the love I bore my native 



land, which loomed so near; I was very agitated 
I well remember that. A 

"The possession of several pounds in money 
gave me independence; not a great deal, but 
enough to let me hold up my head with the con- 
sciousness that I was getting on. If my arms 
had been big enough I would have taken the 
whole city of Dublin in them the day of my re- 
turn. Athlone, too, when I ran down to spend 
some time with father and mother and the rest 
of the family. 

"They seemed proud of me, and we had a real 
reunion. Father, always sympathetic because 
he so thoroughly understood me, said: 'John, 
you'll make your singing mark some day.' He 
appreciated the value of my American trip and 
he and mother and I talked extensively of my 
future. I should have liked to stay long in 
Athlone, it was so restful after the bustle of the 
cities I had been in. But there was work to do, 
and the day of parting came. We all were a 
trifle misty about the eyes, so I broke suddenly 
and left them." 

John ceased his narrative for a spell, for Rock- 
lea was a hundred yards off our starboard bow, 
the pier drawing nearer and nearer. He shut off 



the motor, threw the wheel over, and brought us 
to a landing pretty enough for any seaman. A 
man who had been waiting took charge of the 
dory and John and I climbed to the boards and 
stretched our legs. 

"Rain's on the way," said the tenor, sniffing 
and casting an eye skywards. We proceeded 
towards the house, but slowly; McCormack 
clearly wished to finish that next episode of his 
story before we passed the lawn. 

"That fall and winter of Nineteen Hundred 
Four and Five brought memorable events in my 
life," said he. "I heard Caruso for the first 
time, made some phonograph records my be- 
ginning and arranged to go to Italy to study. 
One thing crowded another, and with the few 
concert engagements I got those months were 
completely filled. 

"But, first of all, I went to see my fiancee's 
father, Patrick Foley. I knew him, at that time, 
in only a slight way; but he greeted me like a 
son. He lived only two years longer, yet in those 
two years he unselfishly gave me assistance and 
counsel that could not have been more devotedly 
bestowed had I been his own flesh and blood. 
I thought I appreciated the worth of the man 



then. It has taken time, however, for that, a 
constant turning in my mind of what he was to 
me, his sturdy gentleness and infinite patience to 
point out what in his judgment was best for me. 
He was unfailingly right ; God rest his soul. 

"Well," said John, after an audible sigh, "we 
discussed many things. I had had two invita- 
tions to go to London to try for some record-mak- 
ing among the phonograph companies. 'Do 
you think a trip to London a wise plan?' I asked 
Mr. Foley. 'Go, lad, by all means,' was his 
answer, and I went. 

"I'd never seen the world's metropolis. It 
lay, in my brain, an image of fancy, and during 
the railway ride I wondered if it would be at all 
as I had pictured it. In a way it was, with some 
spots very like those of my imagination. In- 
stantly I was held by its reflection of material sub- 
stance, the semblance of long and honorable up- 
building of a people who had built for all time. 

"It appears that I had gained enough reputa- 
tion of a certain character to filter up to London. 
Reports had it that there was a young tenor in 
Dublin named McCormack who had something 
of a voice and a way of singing that the people 
liked. And these two invitations one from the 



Edison Company, the other from the Gramo- 
phone Company had come wholly unsolicited. 
I was pleased, yet I went to London in a humble 
spirit, glad of what offered and hoping it would 
lead to something of a permanent nature in the 
way of recording. 

"There was a temptation to count unhatched 
chickens, but I stoutly resisted. I remembered 
the remark of my future father-in-law, who 
helped me in so many ways, to the effect 'Try, 
always, John, to make the best use of your time, 
but do not anticipate unwarrantedly.' I shall 
never forget aitether kindly suggestion he made 
to me when, one evening, as I slipped by him in a 
narrow passageway in a concert auditorium has- 
tening after a friend, Mr. Foley called to me. 
'Mac,' he said, and of course I stopped. 'It 
doesn't do you a bit of harm to say when you 
brush past an old man like me, "I beg your par- 
don." He wasn't an old man, but I never 

"Well, I called on the Edison manager and 
made arrangements to return at a specified time 
to make the records for him, and left his office 
somewhat elated. Then I headed up Gray's 
Inn Road, towards the Gramophone establish- 



ment which, as you know, is the sister company to 
the Victor Talking Machine Company, of Amer- 
ica. There, also, I was successful. 

"It was gratifying to qualify with both com- 
panies, contracting with the Edison to do ten 
songs for fifty pounds and to record twenty-five 
songs for twenty-five pounds for the Gramo- 
phone. The difference in the fees I received was 
this: for the fifty pounds the Edison Company 
was to pay me I agreed to make as many matrices 
as might be necessary to secure ten perfect rec- 
ords; but my agreement with the Gramophone 
Company required only a single record for each 
song, regardless of whether a record might be 
slightly imperfect." 

"Did you build any air castles?" I queried. 
John had stopped a few yards from the house to 
greet his Belgian sheep dog, Nellie, who greeted 
him with sharp yelps of joy, leaping the while 
towards his face which she was straining affec- 
tionately to caress. 

"Get down, Nell! Sit down and compose 
yourself." Which the dog obediently did, 
though her tail wagged at a tremendous rate. 
"What mischief have you been up to?" he de- 
manded, in a tone of canine understanding. 



"Tell me!" Nellie barked joyously, and 
straightway came to all fours and leaped again. 
They frisked about together, master and dog, un- 
til interrupted by the appearance of Mrs. Mc- 
Cormack on the veranda. 

We proceeded in a group McCormack, and 
Nellie and I to the house, where Mrs. Mc- 
Cormack showed a worried look. "I was won- 
dering " she began, when John stopped the 
sentence with a kiss. 

"If I'd got back safe with the dory. That was 
it, wasn't it?" His life partner admitted her 
concern and present relief, and reminded us that 
the dinner hour was near. 

"Five minutes more, then I'm free. He 
makes me work, this man; and in vacation time, 
too." Mrs. McCormack smiled indulgently. 
"Five minutes, then," she said, "but no more," 
and she left us. 

"You asked me a question," reminded John, 
picking up the thread of our conversation where 
Nellie's impetuous arrival had sent it spinning. 
"Oh, yes, air castles. Of course I built them, 
and they were fine ones, with many rooms and ex- 
clusive furnishings and works of art, which I 
revel in. Air castles? I should say; I reared and 



demolished them and rebuilt them again. It's a 
pleasant labor, diverting and generally harmless. 

"I built a dozen or two when, on reaching Dub- 
lin and talking with Mr. Foley, he told me he be- 
lieved Dr. Cameron's advice about Italy should 
be heeded. 'You ought to go,' he decided, 'and 
we'll start planning a way.' 

"Nothing definite was reached in that prelim- 
inary conversation concerning one of the desires 
my heart had been set on for several months. 
Mr. Foley had ideas, and one which ultimately 
proved practical under his guiding hand. Sev- 
eral days later he told me of it, and it was this. 
A testimonial concert was to be arranged ; a con- 
cert on a pretentious scale which Mr. Foley as- 
sured me he would personally manage himself." 

Although this volume is officially McCor- 
mack's own, some of the facts incorporated in it 
have been supplied by persons other than the 
tenor. And it is better so, because otherwise 
they would not have come to my, and the gen- 
eral public's, knowledge. For John has a way of 
often avoiding some incident that places him in 
an advantageous light; and then, another's view- 
point not infrequently brings to the surface some 



element or climax which sounds better than it 
would have sounded had it dropped from the ten- 
or's lips. 

Michael Keane, one of McCormack's staunch- 
est admirers and a "booster" from the first mo- 
ment he heard him, imparted the information of 
the tenor's introductory appearance in London. 
Mr. Keane now American representative for 
the music publishing firm of Boosey and Com- 
pany was at that time an associate of Robert 
Newman, manager of Queen's Hall. As many 
know, this auditorium was the London home for 
the symphony and the ballad concerts, with a 
seating capacity of some thirty-five hundred and 
having back of it fine traditions. 

I had gone to see Mr. Keane at McCormack's 
request. In a few minutes we were in the heart 
of matters McCormack; and in the snug little 
New York office of Boosey and Company, in East 
Seventeenth street, Michael Keane talked on for 
hours, ignoring the approach and passing of the 
luncheon hour. But it was time profitably 

"None of us in London knew of John McCor- 
mack at the time he burst upon us at a concert 
in Queen's Hall, in November of Nineteen Four, 



given by the Gaelic League. The tenor had 
been heard by some of the gentlemen of the 
League, the afternoon he won the first prize in 
the Dublin Feis Coeil, and they concluded that 
his appearance at that important London concert 
would add to its interest. It certainly did. 

"I chanced," continued Mr. Keane, "to be in 
the auditorium when John came upon the plat- 
form. He walked to a place near the piano with 
an agreeable unconsciousness we have since 
learned is characteristic of him, and waited for 
the accompanist to begin the prelude to that rare 
song, 'The Irish Emigrant.' Apart from show- 
ing a casual concern in an unknown Irish tenor 
I doubt," explained Mr. Keane, "if I held any 
special interest. Certainly, I had no idea that I 
should be so affected by what I was to hear." 

"Then he made an impression?" 

"Rather!" said Mr. Keane emphatically. 
"Personally, I was amazed. The voice, then, 
was what I term a pure Irish tenor; with the rich- 
ness in the middle of it, and that delightful sug- 
gestion just a suggestion, mind you of nasal 
quality in his top notes. It was a typically Irish 
tenor voice of the finest sort, and by far the 
most beautiful I ever had heard. 



"The boy sang wonderfully, too, even then. 
It was evident to one uninitiated in the art of 
singing what manner of tenor he was; and the 
probability of his future status. The audience 
present at that Gaelic League concert sensed all 
that I have said, and received him with enthusi- 
asm. But I doubt if any one was so completely 
overjoyed as I. I did not wait to hear the en- 
core which the auditors demanded after 'The 
Irish Emigrant.' As fast as my legs would carry 
me, I rushed upstairs to Mr. Newman's office. 

; 'If you would hear the greatest Irish tenor 
ever produced,' I gasped out, 'come quickly.' 
But Mr. Newman, with whom I had been asso- 
ciated for eighteen years, only smiled. Tm 
busy, Michael,' he replied, 'but when I've fin- 
ished I'll try to get down.' He thought me 
over-enthusiastic, because McCormack was a fel- 
low-countryman . 

"Well, I returned to the auditorium to hear 
the rest of that Irish boy's songs. And I never 
doubted not when John struggled against ob- 
stacles after he made London his headquarters 
that he would eventually be accepted as not 
only the greatest Irish singer, but the greatest 
singer in the world." 




I was busy in a study in an enticingly secluded 
part of the McCormacks' Rocklea home, late on 
the night when John recounted Mr. Foley's an- 
nouncement of the proposed benefit concert. 
About me, on a large table, were ranged letters, 
memoranda, and private documents belonging to 
the tenor to which he had given me access; a 
veritable mass of informative and interesting data 
and many pages of the manuscript of this book. 
Few persons have been privileged to burrow into 
the material which lay about; it represented the 
accumulations of years, some of it almost as old 
as the Irish singer himself. 

The night was cool, for it was before the hot 
period of our remarkable summer of Nineteen 
Hundred Eighteen, and a breeze touched with a 
salty aroma of the Sound came through the open 
windows into the room. An electric lamp, 



nearly hidden by a wide-spreading and drooping 
shade, shed its rays in a circle of generous 

I sat smoking my pipe, rather meditatively, 
and finding a growing interest in each hitherto 
new, to me, fact as I dug it from some hiding- 
place, and recorded it where it belonged. It was 
past midnight, an hour when some minds are 
most active : the working time for the few just as 
it is sleeping time for the many. 

A stiffness of body from long sitting over my 
work sent me to my feet and to the window where 
the curtains fluttered under the wind. It had 
died down since our earlier landing from the 
dory, but it still whipped the Sound waters until 
the surface was tipped with cappings that showed 
dead white under the light of the moon. The 
lawn was dark, but at the pierhead, beyond, a 
small space was illumined. 

And then there crossed my gaze a moving fig- 
ure. I saw it first to my left, about a hundred 
feet from the house. But instead of proceeding 
in my direction the figure, which was unquestion- 
ably a man's, was headed for the pier. I saw it 
go on past the south side of the lawn, to the 
beach and out upon the pier. In another mo- 



ment the man would be in the spot where the 
moon's rays touched. 

I watched, curiosity more than concern hold- 
ing my attention, for the instant when the figure 
should break from darkness into comparative 
light. Ten seconds, five more passed. Then 
I saw. There was no mistaking the contour of 
that body, the flare of shoulders and the bared 
head. It was McCormack. 

Wondering what took him up and out at that 
hour of night, for he is a sound sleeper, I left 
him to whatever object he might have had in view, 
and returned to my work. It was a matter of 
perhaps a quarter of an hour when I heard a foot- 
fall behind me, which brought me about to face 
the direction of the sound. 

"Hello, John!" I greeted. "What keeps you 

"I saw your light, from outside," he re- 
sponded, ignoring my question. He walked over 
to the table, picked up the pages of the manu- 
script and sitting down began to read. He did 
not look up or speak until he had finished; 
whereupon he laid the typed script aside to dis- 
cuss certain parts of it. 

I have never before written a book in col- 


laboration, but should circumstances make such 
procedure wise again I shouldn't mind having as 
collaborator John McCormack. He has the 
writer's discernment and feeling, and an unerring 
sense of what belongs. Sitting there, he offered 
several suggestions: changes, at one point, of 
elimination, of addition at another and rephras- 
ing of some quotations of his own that his exact 
words should be set down. We made them, on 
the spot; which seemed to give the tenor satis- 
faction. At any rate, he lighted a cigarette, in- 
haled and blew the smoke above his head. 

"You don't mind, I hope those suggestions. 
You see I'm rather particular about having every- 
thing just as it happened." 

I told him his desire was likewise mine, that 
without such aid as he was giving we could not 
make the book the thing it was intended to be: 
an authorized version of the story of his life, his 
own tale which, so to speak, should be an official 

He seemed pleased at that. Mrs. McCormack 
confided to me, the next day, that John had fussed 
continually ever since our work had begun; 
fussed as he does when he undertakes anything 
worth while, in his continually expressed belief 



that whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing 
well. And in the remaining weeks of our com- 
bined endeavor, weeks filled with almost daily 
consultation, McCormack displayed the same in- 
terest, the same concern for accuracy and consist- 
ency and an unflagging zeal to do the job well. 
Never once did he become irritable under my 
fusillade of questions; he would go over again 
any episode which needed clarifying, and in our 
revisions his patience never broke. 

"I was thinking outside, there what a lot 
I have to be thankful for. I like to wander 
around, that way, sometimes, to get off by my- 
self and try to get an unbiased perspective. It's 
a great help to keep one on the rails ; a stabilizer 
of the best sort." 

I agreed, as I often did when John fell into one 
of his communicative moods, by inclining my 

"Funny," he observed, "but just a moment 
ago, down on the pier, I happened to recall the 
first time I heard Caruso. It wasn't long before 
I left Dublin for Italy, and a short time after I 
had made my records for the Edison and Gramo- 
phone companies. It was at Covent Garden, 
London; the opera, 'La Boheme.' You can well 



imagine my state of mind at reaching my seat in 
that distinguished old institution. My heart 
fluttered almost as a spinster's at the moment of 
approaching proposal. I had read and heard so 
much about this great artist that I could scarcely 
wait for the curtain. 

' 'La Boheme' was as much of a novelty as the 
tenor, but it was he in whom my interest centred : 
the type of his voice, his manner of using it and 
his interpretative style. My ears and mind were 
full of the man and I was as nervous as a horse at 
the starting-post until Caruso, garbed as the 
Bohemian Rodolfo, sang his opening phrases. 

"I was not there in the role of cantankerous, 
captious critic. Presumptuousness held no part 
of me. But when I listened to the opening 
phrases of Puccini's music, sung by that inde- 
scribably glorious voice as Caruso alone could 
sing, my jaw dropped as though hung on a hinge. 
Such smoothness and purity of tone, and such 
quality; it was like a stream of liquid gold. 

"And yet, one other person in Covent Garden 
had a slightly different and, I thought, odd im- 
pression. Attracted by the same magnet as I, 
J. C. Doyle, the baritone I spoke of and a fine 
man and artist, and his brother Jim went to the 



performance, dilating upon the capacities of one 
of the greatest, if not the greatest, of singers of 
all time. The tenor was well along in the first 
act, and nearing the Rocconto aria, when Jim 
Doyle, unaware that he was actually hearing 
Caruso at the moment, remarked to his brother: 
'Well, if Caruso can sing any better than this boy, 
Caruso certainly can sing!' 

"It was the best lesson, up to that moment, I 
had ever received and a stimulus which cannot 
be described. The sound of Caruso's voice that 
night lingered in my ears for months, and will 
doubtless linger there always. It will always be 
to me one of the memorable moments of my life. 
I looked up to him, as I do still, as a supremely 
gifted artist; unique, performing vocal feats no 
other tenor can, and standing apart from the rest, 
a model for all. 

"I sang a number of concert engagements dur- 
ing Nineteen Hundred Four and Five ; in Dublin 
and several other places, and for the usual small 
fees, varying from twenty to thirty shillings. 
But I was no aggrieved participant. Each ap- 
pearance carried a definite significance and was 
something to be seriously regarded as a duty to 
my public and myself. I have been that way 



always, and shall continue to be. For no matter 
how seemingly inconsequential the task, it is 
worth doing in only a single way. 

"At last came the night of my benefit concert: 
Mr. Foley had prepared for it with his accus- 
tomed businesslike thoroughness, neglecting his 
own interests and toiling with such zealousness 
and disregard of his own health that on the day 
of days he was confined to his bed, under his 
physician's care. Yet he could not be dissuaded 
from rising at six o'clock and, after vainly at- 
tempting to eat, going to the hall and into the box 
office to see personally that all moneys were ac- 
curately accounted for. 

"I think we may term that unselfish devotion. 

"The concert was considered a success. My 
patrons (and I deeply appreciate their willing- 
ness to help a young singing student get his de- 
sired education) appeared pleased and liked, es- 
pecially, the songs I sang at the concert, which 
were 'In Her Simplicity,' the last act aria from 
'Mignon,' 'The Snowy Breasted Pearl,' and Tos- 
ti's 'My Dreams.' These were the three pro- 
gramme numbers, but there were many en- 



Well, the concert netted me ninety pounds; 


and Mr. Foley and Lily, who had triumphed with 
me in the affair, and I held a mild celebration at 
the Foley home. 

"My affairs were arranged: the good-byes to 
my parents and sisters and brother said, my be- 
longings packed, and I was ready to depart south- 
ward. Then occurred a strange incident. Mr. 
Fair, living in Athene and a friend of father's, 
an amateur singer of limited capacities, but one 
who had studied extensively and was really well 
informed, though an indifferent performer him- 
self, stopped me on the street. 

' 'I understand you are going to Italy to study,' 
said he; 'who is to be your teacher?' I told him 
I had no idea. 'Well,' volunteered Mr. Fair, 
'I spent some time over there ; and I worked with 
ever so many so-called singing masters. Most 
of them are incapable; many are charlatans.' I 
received this information with trepidation. 'I 
did find, however,' declared the doctor positively, 
'one man who knew his business. His name is 
Vincenzo Sabatini. He's an old man, past 
seventy now, yet he is the one you should go to 
if he will consent to take you.' 

"I left Dublin with a letter to Sabatini from 
Mr. Fair, and en route I rehearsed until letter-per- 



feet the plea I should make to induce him to ac- 
cept me as a pupil. 

"Milan was reached at last; Milan with its 
thousands of singing hopefuls, boys and girls 
from all lands, vying with one another for the 
equipment which should yield them victory and 
its fruits. An ambitious lot, some of them ex- 
cellently equipped for their desired tasks and 
others less fortunate, perhaps; but all of them 
doing their best according to their individual 

John got up, stretched his arms, and took a 
turn to the window and back. 

"And when you arrived at Sabatini's studio," 
I observed, suggestively, "you found that you 
had lost the letter of introduction?" 

"That would have been more or less dra- 
matic," agreed McCormack, "only it wasn't what 
happened. There was small chance, for I had 
the thing pinned to the inside pocket of my waist- 
coat; with a safety-pin, too. As I did not speak 
or understand Italian it was agreed that I should 
be identified by a handkerchief tied about one 
arm, and I stood on the station platform until I 
was seen and rescued. 

"Yes," he remarked, reseating himself, "I had 


the letter. And I held it in my hand when I 
went into the old maestro 's studio, my legs some- 
what wobbly from nervous anticipation of hearing 
a possible 'no.' 

"I can see him even now," mused the tenor, 
"a wonderfully preserved man, physically, look- 
ing fifteen years younger than he was, with white 
hair, which was thin and was brushed straight 
back, and moustache, and eyebrows silvered, too, 
and a broad brow above wide-set eyes. 

"Disturbed you, then?" 

"Not in the way I had expected to be," replied 
John. "There was a quality about Sabatini of 
old-fashioned courtliness which softened his 
piercing gaze. He spoke almost no word of my 
language, but his wife was an Englishwoman 
his accompanist and valued aide. It was she 
who had first greeted me, and she opened the 
letter from Mr. Fair as Sabatini advanced a few 
steps and greeted me with a formality that held 
no coldness. He was no poseur. 

"I scrutinized him as he listened while his wife 
read the letter to him, and I was thus engaged 
when the maestro looked up. 

' 'So you would become a singer,' queried 
Sabbatini; 'well, let us see if there is the chance,' 



He retraced his steps to a chair near the piano, 
where Signora Sabatini sat waiting while I se- 
lected my music. 

"I don't know why I experienced no sense of 
fear, standing before that critical voice-master 
and well aware that it was then or never. It was 
a moment of inexpressible anxiety. Yet my 
mind never was clearer nor my confidence more 
secure. I sang, spurred by the possible re- 
ward, with more fervor than was my wont. The 
test was completed in a few minutes ; the time ar- 
rived which my boyish longing had lived over 
and over again during the days of unleashed 

"Sabatini did not immediately speak, but he 
rose slowly from his seat as though cogitating 
something important and not to be prematurely 
divulged. Then he turned to his wife, and 
spoke rapidly to her in Italian something at 
which she inclined her head, speaking Italian 
also as she did so. 

'You have come to ask me if I will take you 
as a pupil and that I will. But I cannot place 
your voice.' My heart felt a lump of lead at 
those portentous words. 'I cannot place your 
voice,' said the maestro, 'because God did that.' 



"I vaguely recollect his saying other things, 
but I did not comprehend. His words kept re- 
volving in my mind, like the turning of a wheel ; 
and I kept seeing them chase after one another in 
that single phrase: 4 I cannot place your voice, 
God did that.' " 

We sat in the secluded study, John McCor- 
mack and I, for some minutes, in silence. He 
had painted his word-picture well; I could 
glimpse the youth of twenty, eager and buoyant, 
getting his verdict and being a bit stunned by it. 

"I discovered, later, that Sabatini liked my 
voice and believed a career was assured. But he 
explained the elements involved: opportunity 
and what I suppose we might designate a 'break 
in the luck.' 

"I cannot complain as to that. Luck or for- 
tune, or Providence's beneficent dispensation has 
been rather near my elbow. And I have 
worked, and endured privations and disappoint- 
ments. Without them the singer does not feel; 
not to the depths of his soul. 

"Well," exclaimed the tenor, and he emerged 
abruptly and with some show of physical force 
as of having brusquely shed himself of some in- 
ternal cloak of sentiment, "we arranged for les- 



sons, Sabatini and I. One every day, except- 
ing Sundays; the price twenty dollars a month. 
And on March 21st, 1905, we began. 

"I found living quarters in Pension Betham 
Via Brera 5 at thirty dollars a month, including 
my meals. Once installed and my tuition under 
way I felt the world a bright and exceedingly 
good-natured place to live in. I began blithely, 
almost, a song in my heart as continually as it 
was on my lips. 

"Details of a singing student's routine make 
commonplace reading. Mine was no different 
course from that of any other aspirant for sing- 
ing honors; from those, I should say, who were 
serious and had to make time and money count. 
For me there were no periods of idleness or ques- 
tionable pleasures. There is but a single ex- 
pression which fits what I did: I 'plugged.' 

"Two objects engaged the chief attention of 
Sabatini in our work: the acquiring of a mezza- 
voce, which I did not have by nature, and the 
freeing of my high tones. The voice was not 
what is called a 'long' voice (by which I mean 
plenty of compass, from bottom to top) and the 
top notes were in my throat ; but to get them out 
with freedom, so that a high A or B-flat had 



the same relative quality as the lower part of 
the voice, required constant, painstaking teach- 
ing on Sabatini's part and practice on my own. 
The mezza-voce (singing with half the volume of 
the full voice, or with less than half) was a slow 
process ; often I grew discouraged over it. 

"My maestro spent no time teaching me the 
operas. The roles of every opera now in my 
repertoire (I have twenty-five) I learned by my- 
self. When they were musically committed to 
memory Sabatini 'passed' them, as we say in sing- 
ing parlance, and offered suggestions as to their 
interpretation. But my endeavors, as may be 
apparent, so far as Sabatini is concerned, lay in 
the direction of acquiring an evenness of the 
vocal scale ; of making the voice smooth in every 
note, and in gaining ease of production and cer- 
tainty in short, a technique which in time 
would become so perfect mechanically as to allow 
me to forget technique, while I sang, and devote 
my attention exclusively to the interpretation of 
the music and of the text. For such singing, I 
contend, is what constitutes the art and permits 
the artist to convey his message with sincerity to 
his hearers. 

"I remained in Milan, during that first stay, 


from March, Nineteen Hundred Five, to May 
just two months. In that time I studied Italian 
assiduously, giving hours each day to it and 
mingling freely with Italians in practising the 
speech. My Latin and Greek knowledge was of 
inestimable help and besides I had the lingual 
facility, so much so that in six weeks from my 
arrival in Milan I understood everything in Ital- 
ian which was said, and spoke with reasonable 

"Sabatini discontinued his teaching before 
warm weather arrived, and as I knew no pro- 
nounced advancement could be made during his 
absence, I elected to return to Ireland and come 
back to Italy the following fall. So I wrote 
home that I should soon depart, and before June 
arrived I was again in Dublin and devoting 
myself to Miss Lily Foley." 




"During that summer of 1905," said McCor- 
mack, "I gained some understanding of how 
fortunate I was in having the pledge of Lily 
Foley to become Mrs. John McCormack. I 
spent part of those four months in Dublin and 
part with my family in Athlone. And I was 
happy. My conjecture as to the future was 
probably a stimulating force, and the few con- 
cert engagements which came to me helped. 
Nor will I forget the strength I felt in the un- 
speakably unselfish friendship of Patrick Foley 
my second father. 

"Time does not pass as swiftly to the young 
as to the old. It lingered, throughout those 
months in Nineteen Hundred Five, and although 
I was loath to leave those I loved I felt the tug 
of duty; of having much to accomplish, and of 
the path of that accomplishment leading toward 



Italy. There I found myself, in October; 
twenty-one, and eager. 

"My dear old Sabatini had returned to his 
studio it was a romantic address, Via Victor 
Hugo, Number Four the day before I reached 
Milan. I found him there, after I had settled 
down at the same Pension Betham, Number Five 
Via Brera, and had hurried to greet him. Hav- 
ing got a start in the spring, I trod the streets of 
Milan with a feeling of belonging there, in a way. 
The buildings and byways were familiar, even 
some of the people I met as I passed along; and 
I spoke the language. 

"I had been to mass that morning, and my 
hopes were soaring. Health and optimism were 
mine and the faith of the Irish Catholic. In 
that mood of good-will towards men I reached 
Sabatini's studio, to be greeted, first, by Signora 
Sabatini. She was calm, as was her custom, 
but glad to see me. I could see that in her fine 
eyes, and feel it in the warm clasp of her artistic 

"But it was a more demonstrative reception 
which the maestro gave me ; one typical of those 
of his nationality who entertain affection for an- 
other. He came from one side of his studio in 



the direction of the doorway, his thin, white 
hair brushed back from his brow and those 
piercing eyes of his denoting an unmistakable 

" 'Giovanni,' he exclaimed, and I thought I 
detected the suggestion of a quaver in his voice, 
'caro mio.' Then the dear man kissed me on 
both cheeks. But he was no happier to welcome 
me than I was to see him again, and to feel his 
vigorous hand-clasp which held for me a wealth 
of meaning. 

"He pushed me forcibly into a chair, plying 
me with questions in a veritable stream of Ital- 
ian which came too fast to permit immediate 
answering. But his paramount interest was in 
my voice. He had been, once, to Liverpool and 
more often than I could count had averred that 
it had taken him three years in the soft air of his 
beloved Italy to get the fog and chill of that 
Liverpool atmosphere from his throat. 

' 'Giovanni,' he would say, 'how is it that you 
are of England, yet with that voice?' And my 
reply, invariably, would in substance be, 'But, 
maestro, England is not Ireland nor Ireland Eng- 
land.' Whereat he always shook his head, in a 
slow side to side movement as if unable to com- 



prehend how a little matter in distance could 
make such a difference. 

"On this particular October morning Saba- 
tini was a physical and mental dynamo. He 
shortly had me standing at my lesson, with his 
wife at the piano. He was a source of wonder- 
ment to me, at all times, and that three-quarters 
of an hour disclosed the same facility of that 
seventy-four-year-old man at detecting vocal 
flaws and the same astuteness in applying cor- 
rective measures which, I presume, he had pos- 
sessed twenty years before. I likewise shall 
never forget how he sang for me 'Salve Dimore,' 
from 'Faust,' with an evenness of scale which was 
a revelation." 

It was on a muggy July morning 01 Nineteen 
Hundred Eighteen, in New York City, that the 
tenor related to me the facts incorporated in the 
opening pages of this chapter. Business had 
brought him from the luxurious coolness of Rock- 
lea to the broiling and humid heat of America's 
metropolis at the height of summer, and Nature, 
man and beast suffered. We sat at a table in 
the grill of one of John's clubs. He showed the 
effects of his previous weeks of physical train- 
ing and diet, of normal living and a tranquil 



mind, which leave their unmistakable marks. 
' 'Aida' was the first opera I heard in Italy," 
announced the tenor. His vision was not for 
immediate and nearby things ; he was looking far 
backwards, and from the upturned quirk of his 
mouth contemplating pleasant things. "De 
Macchi was the tenor, Boninsegna sang Aida and, 
I think, Stracciari had the role of Amonasro." 

His pause, after these words, was such that I 
ventured a question. "Was the performance a 
good one?" 

"Very," he replied. "It had the fire and 
life which Verdi believed 'Aida' required. 4 I1 
Barbiere di Siviglia' was the second operatic 
work I listened to in Milan; in La Scala. De 
Luca, now one of the first baritones at the New 
York Metropolitan, Barrientos, its coloratura 
soprano, and Pini-Corsi, a former Metropolitan 
buffo-basso now dead, also were in the cast. The 
tenor was Fernindo De Lucia, a glorious artist. 
I have heard and seen few finer presentations of 
this opera, which offers a wealth of vocal oppor- 
tunity to the principals who are given that op- 
portunity by a composer who did not rob them of 
it through covering their parts with unnecessarily 
heavy orchestration the Frankenstein of mod- 



ern operas and the most potent cause of vocal 
wrecks the opera singer of this generation has to 

"And Sabatini? He felt, in this respect, as 
you feel?" 

"Assuredly," said McCormack. "Modern 
opera was a thing he detested, because of its im- 
possible demands upon the voice, above all else. 
He had reasons, and good ones, you may believe. 
For he rightly contended that the human singing 
voice cannot be driven, in the singer's effort to be 
heard, against a mass of orchestral tone without 
damage to the vocal instrument." 

The tenor was interrupted here by a fellow 
club-member insistent upon a brief visit and a 
discussion on the war and other topics of the mo- 
ment. John drifted from music and into these 
non-related subjects with interest, and showed 
his grasp of each to be that of an educated, 
thoughtful citizen, broad enough to consider mat- 
ters outside his own particular sphere of profes- 
sional effort. 

"There was so much in Milan of artistic and 
historic interest," resumed McCormack, "that I 
never lacked for an occupation of benefit to me. 



Music, of course, came first, yet I counted litera- 
ture and the fine arts as accompanying essentials, 
and I seized every chance to extend my acquaint- 
ance with them all. 

"The picture gallery of Brera, directly oppo- 
site where I lived, was one of the spots where I 
spent much time. The building was erected, in 
1651, as a Jesuit college and continued as that 
until the year of American independence. At 
that time it was installed, and has since con- 
tinued, as the seat of the Accademia di Belle Arti ; 
and within the gallery may be found the re- 
nowned 'Sposalizio' of Raphael, pictures and 
frescoes by Ferrari, Luini and Bramantino as 
well as a library of over three hundred thousand 
volumes. There is much else besides : thousands 
of rare coins and a splendid observatory, and 
art works by those masters Paolo Veronese, 
Moroni, Bellini, Bonifazio, Paris Bordone, Cima 
da Conegliano and others of their time. 

"It was in the Brera Gallery that my instinc- 
tive taste for good pictures had its early cultiva- 
tion. The interpretation of a song is but the 
rearing of a piece of musical architecture; and 
no slight help is to be found in the study of good 



canvases, wherein the eye recognizes, among 
other outstanding elements, line and color and 

"I was fond, too, of looking at the statue of 
Leonardo da Vinci, which stands in the Piazza 
della Scala within a stone's toss of the Teatro 
della Scala that famous opera-house which the 
world knows best as La Scala. Nor could I keep 
away from the nearby Galleria Vittorio Eman- 
uele, that magnificent arcade in the form of a 
Latin cross with its octagonal centre which is 
topped, at a height of one hundred sixty feet, 
with a glass cupola. 

"The parks and streets were my inanimate 
friends, and I would wander for hours at a time 
through them learning a lesson or relaxing in 
the artistic stimulus which they somehow seemed 
to reflect. 

"I endeavored conscientiously to waste no 
time. I counted well the value of a day's hours, 
and they were never quite enough. I cannot re- 
member that Italy was a playground for me, un- 
less I estimate my studies as that. I enjoyed 
them enough, it is true, and they consumed my 
waking moments rather completely. But with 
student celebrations I had no acquaintance, for 



the sufficient reasons of lacking money and super- 
fluous time. My musical hay had to be made 
while the sun shone, and there was no guarantee 
that it might not suddenly set. It threatened to 
do that, by the way, during the early winter of 
that 1905-1906 season, and would have done so 
but for the generosity of my staunch friend 
Bishop Clancy, of Summerhill College. 

"Friends," said John, "are among the best 
things of life. To make and keep them has been 
one of the things I have never ceased to be grate- 
ful for, because my present position is in con- 
siderable measure due to their loyalty and re- 
sponsiveness to various personal needs. I am 
convinced of that. I've not turned to many of 
these friends, it is true, but when I did none of 
them refused what I sought. 

"It was that way with Bishop Clancy. My 
money had run very low, and I began to worry. 
There was no way that I knew to earn any, in 
Milan, with such resources as were mine. I hesi- 
tated long before writing Bishop Clancy; it does 
not come easy to me to ask for assistance, even 
such assistance as I feel confident I may repay 
at a given time. 

"But, after days of reflection on the matter, I 


decided; and I then composed a letter to the 
Bishop, explaining my need for fifty pounds if 
I were to be able to remain in Milan and asking 
him to lend me that amount, if it were convenient. 
I was almost sorry when I let the letter to Bishop 
Clancy slip from my fingers into the post-box. 
What if he were to refuse? My youthful mind 
held a swarm of conjectures, and I fretted until 
I got my answer, which, when I held it unopened 
in my shaking fingers, I scarcely dared read." 

"Yet you had faith?" 

"Yes," answered John, "but I was tormented 
with a questioning of having done the right thing. 
I need not have worried. That letter from 
Bishop Clancy was a solace, a strengthener that 
lifted me up and made my religion a more ma- 
jestic thing to me than ever. 

"The Bishop wrote that he was glad I had 
asked that favor. It gave him, he said, a great 
comfort to be able to show his affection for me, 
and his confidence in my future. He hadn't by 
him at the time, the full fifty pounds; only 
twenty-five, which he enclosed. But he would 
send the remainder, he promised, in three 
months. And this he did." 

Bishop Curley, John's boyhood friend, told 


me something of this incident. The tenor had 
said in his letter that he would return the loan 
in three years ; and in three years, to the month, 
he kept his word. Also, he had a beautiful 
chalice (made with Irish amethysts and other 
gems) which he presented to Bishop Clancy. 
The Bishop died in 1912, which took from John 
McCormack a real friend, but that same chalice 
(which Bishop Clancy left in his will to Summer- 
hill College, McCormack's alma mater) is used 
each day in the mass and a special memento al- 
ways is said for the donor. 

"With my mind at ease," continued McCor- 
mack, "I progressed at a rapid rate. Each day 
an accompanist came to me, and in exchange for 
one franc an hour played through those operas 
I was learning for my repertoire. It is not ex- 
pensive, in Italy, to become a musician if one will 
toil. A set purpose and some natural ability 
appear the prerequisites. By this time I read 
at sight rather well, and I was always a good 
student. So the repertoire grew. 

"Sabatini's patient toil with me seemed also 
to be a productive affair. He never tired. He 
would scold me, often, when I was timid in giving 
a top note with the same freedom as a lower one, 



and then he would call to me, his eyes snapping: 
'Avanti, Giovanni, avanti!' But he never tired. 
For he was more, merely, than maestro; he was 
my friend. 

"I used to revel in those walks of ours, which 
now and again took us to the Galleria head- 
quarters for musical-conductors, singers, arrived 
and otherwise, and musical agents where Saba- 
tini would be met with salutations on all sides. 
He would touch up my Italian, and in his quaint 
and courtly fashion command his Giovanni to 
give him his lesson in English. And then, after 
our stroll, we would often end at Sabatini's 
home at the dinner hour, my maestro gently in- 
sisting that I should remain to eat with him and 
his wife. I always was glad to stop, for those 
were treasure hours which can never be re- 

"And one December day, arriving at the studio 
for my lesson, Sabatini eyed me covertly from 
over the hand that pulled at his thin, silvery 
moustache. I sensed that he was up to some- 
thing ; his whole manner was that of a grown-up 
child who has something of importance to im- 
part to one he is fond of. He had evidently 
planned just how he should tell me: first, to 



pique my interest and, thereafter, compel me to 
guess a dozen things, and finally 'give it up.' 

"He is ... dead, now dear soul ! And, I 
know, gone to his deserved reward. But I can 
see him, as plainly as though it happened yester- 
day, standing near the window in his studio, 
playing with his moustache and eyeing me like a 
mischievous schoolboy. 

' 'Giovanni!' he cried. 'There is news. 
Something I must tell to you.' Then a purpose- 
ful pause. 'I wonder, now; had I better?' as 
though addressing himself. I was eager, but to 
please him I pretended to be half frantic with sus- 
pense and besought him to speak out. Then, 
as I have already related, he insisted that I guess, 
which I of course did, while he watched me with 
evident delight at withholding the news which 
he would announce when I was bursting with 

"Finally, according to the prescribed course I 
would follow, I announced my inability to cor- 
rectly read his mind. Elated, he made his an- 
nouncement, much as though promulgating some 
order of state. 

"And the news he held for me was the op- 
portunity for an audition (which was equivalent 



to an engagement) to sing in seven opera per- 
formances in the Teatro Chiabrera, at Savona, a 
small town near Genoa. A baritone named 
Felici, a friend of Sabatini, had arranged for the 
engagement, but it carried no fee. All I could 
expect to get from it were such experience and 
glory as it might yield." 




Our seats in the chair car of the late afternoon 
express train were in the extreme rear, isolated 
from the nearest passengers, which permitted us 
to talk uninterruptedly and without fear of an- 
noying others. Stamford was the first stop and 
there we knew that Wilkinson would be waiting, 
with the motor-car. 

"Don't say it's hot," growled John, noting I 
was about to speak. 

"Why not sing it, then, if it annoys you to 

"Just for that I wont sing, and I will talk 
. . . about singing, when I made that opera 
debut at Savona. The audition went satisfac- 
torily, and Felici closed matters with the theatre 
impresario. So I went to the boarding-house 
where I should stop while rehearsing and singing 
my seven performances. 

"The plan called for my singing five times in 


Mascagni's 'L'Amico Fritz' and twice in an opera 
by Dupont called 'La Cabrera.' Preparations 
went without any serious trouble, and the night 
at length came for the opening performance. 
'L'Amico Fritz' had been selected by the im- 
presario and those of us who were to appear were 
anxious. A crowded audience was assured and 
when the curtain rose we saw that it was on hand, 
ready to applaud or condemn according as it was 
pleased or not. 

"I was certain enough of my singing, but the 
acting part of my role was on my mind. In those 
days I did not appreciate what repose of body 
means, or the use of a gesture in a natural way 
when it is necessary to convey something to an 

"So I kept my arms busily employed througn- 
out the opera, one set of gestures in particular 
causing Felici to remark after the performance: 
'Why, Giovanni, did you spread out both arms as 
though making some present to the people; al- 
ways the arms, like the railroad man's signal.' 
It was good advice which Felici gave and I 
heeded it. But what I think is more interesting 
is one other episode, of a different order. 

"I sang with sufficient assurance and every- 


thing seemed to me to be going well until I ap- 
proached a point in the opera in which I knew 
my audience would want from a certain top note 
plenty of noise. I hadn't figured it out before 
the performance, but as the place drew nearer I 
decided suddenly, as we should say nowadays, to 
'camouflage' that particular tone. It was the big 
aria for tenor which has a top B-flat. I hadn't a 
good B-flat then, and when the moment came to 
let it go I walked to the footlights, opened my 
mouth and in look and attitude did my best to 
give an imitation of a tenor ripping out a ringing 
high note though I purposely gave forth no 

"As true as I'm sitting here I got a round of 

"How do you account for it?" I wanted to 

"Nothing but the audience's imagination," re- 
plied John. "The people thought that through 
the orchestral forte they were hearing what they 
wanted to hear, and were satisfied. But wait 
. . . until I tell the sequel. 

"The following night I thought, when the 
moment for the high B-flat approached, Til let 
them have it this time with the voice.' I did, 



and would you believe it? it didn't get over, 
at all. The reason is that they actually heard 
the tone, which hadn't the fibre and ring their 
imaginations had allowed them to fancy was there 
the preceding night." 

It was a delicate question, yet it had a bearing 
upon John's career, so I ventured to ask: "You 
had a ... success?" 

"I shouldn't call it that," he answered, and 
with no show of irritation whatsoever. "It was, 
of course, nothing like what the Italians term a 
fiasco. Still, if medals had been awarded I 
should not have found my chest completely cov- 
ered with them. I believe it would be within the 
full truth to say that I was mildly 'accepted.' 

"The Italian public, however, never became 
enthusiastic over me. Some time later I'll tell 
the facts at the proper place when I came down 
from England, an artist, to sing a brief season 
at the San Carlo, in Naples, I caused no furore. 
But some day, when the War is over, I am going 
back to Italy to sing in opera. I think I'll be 
ready then for them, and I hope they'll be ready 
for me." 

I surmised that McCormack would drift into 


recounting his concluding Milan student days be- 
fore our train passed Greenwich. He had fallen 
into another of those reflective silences of his as 
we rushed through Larchmont; it held into 
Mamaroneck; showed a trace of awakening as the 
station signs of Harrison blurred before my eyes, 
and with Rye fading behind John stirred in his 

"Destroying letters," he remarked, "is some- 
times a pity." 

"Some kinds of letters," I agreed. 

"Mine were that kind," replied the tenor, a 
pensive touch in that full-toned speaking voice of 
his. "I used to write, in detail, to my fiancee of 
my Milan experiences: my thoughts and labors, 
everything, I believe, which happened to me in 
which she would be interested. And in some 
way, shortly before our marriage, they were de- 
stroyed. I've often wished I had them now. 

"However " McCormack is somewhat philo- 
sophical, and he turned abruptly from this sub- 
ject to a pleasanter one "Sabatini welcomed 
me back from Savona and wanted to know my 
version as to all that had happened. I had to 
tell him of each occurrence, down to the most 



insignificant one, and, that finished, to recapitu- 
late the important points, with care for complete- 
ness and precision. 

"It must have been a natural feeling, Saba- 
tini had only a few pupils, then. He was an old 
man, as I have said. And severe. He had re- 
spect for the truth only, and no facility (nor in- 
clination in that direction, either) for subterfuge. 
Things he didn't mean he could not say, or act. 
He was a plain man simple and honest. It 
pleases me to think that his sympathies were 
more largely for me than any other pupil he had. 
Probably he considered I was most in need of 
them. He sat in his arm-chair as I talked on, 
nodding occasionally and clasping and unclasp- 
ing his lean fingers. 

' 'For the beginning, Giovanni, it is well I 
think.' I saw that he was endeavoring to dissi- 
pate any misgivings I entertained as to the lack 
of real success. 'The start, he go slow; and bye 
and bye he pick up.' That was typical of the 
maestro. To build slowly, with a view to per- 
manency, was his creed and he held to it with the 
tenacity of one of half his years. 

"After the Savona debut, which was in Decem- 
ber of Nineteen Five, I progressed rapidly. 



Those appearances put something into my sing- 
ing which had not theretofore been present: 
a degree of confidence in self that allowed a 
broader style, a greater freedom and brought its 
consequent artistic growth. 

"It was some two months later that my second 
opportunity arrived to sing in opera, this time 
under conditions that were to bring me money. 
Contracts were signed for ten performances of 
'Faust,' for a fee of two hundred francs, in Santa 
Croce, a little town near Florence. But it was 
an expensive affair, in spite of what I got, for one 
hundred and sixty francs went to the railway com- 
pany which took me from Milan to my destina- 
tion and back. But I had my appearances, 
under the name of Giovanni Foli (Italianizing 
my name, and my future father-in-law's, as I had 
also done for the Savona engagement) and an ex- 
perience that has induced laughter whenever I 
have since recalled the incident. 

"The soprano was an attractive young woman, 
who was accompanied by her mother. I had 
found time to wander about Santa Croce, and as 
my bump of location is well developed I learned 
the direction of those spots about the theatre, and 
the boarding-house where we stopped, Listen, 



now, to this; it's the one adventure of the kind 
in my experience. 

"We had finished a rehearsal. As I came out- 
side the theatre I met the soprano and her mother, 
evidently confused as to the way to the boarding- 
house and hesitating to walk that way unescorted. 
A vehicle one of the closed sort one finds in 
that part of Italy drove along the street at that 
moment, and I hailed it and invited the two ladies 
to accompany me in it to the place, which was 
presided over by the impresario's wife, whom I 
shall never forget as a remarkable cook. 

"I did not like the looks of the driver. Sour- 
visaged, he was, with shaggy brows ; a brigandish 
looking fellow, who might have graduated from 
the country into a village, or, possibly, have been 
on vacation. I put the soprano and her mother 
into the vehicle, and followed them. 

"There was conversation about the rehearsal 
and we drove on. But when we came to a cer- 
tain spot I observed the driver turned to his left 
instead of going to the right, which I remembered 
was the way to our home. I had not missed, 
either, I might add, a few moments before the 
turn, seeing a man climb up and on to the back 
of our carriage. I was instantly suspicious, for 



it was growing dark and the driver's reply to my 
order to go the other way brought a surly response. 
'The hotel's to the right, not the direction 
you're taking,' I said. I leaned out of the car- 
riage window, and glared at the fellow. And 
looking rearwards I caught a glimpse of the sus- 
picious passenger perched on our back axle. 

' 'No, signor,' retorted our driver, 'the hotel 
is the way I am going. Just a different route.' 
'Well, you go the way I tell you, or ' ' 

"Well," I said, a trifle impatiently perhaps, 
"go on. Don't stop in the middle of it. I sup- 
pose you drew your trusty pistol." 

John grinned. "You guessed it. I did, a 
nickel-plated thirty-two-calibre peanut shooter." 

"You, a tenor, packing a gun?" I was aston- 
ished; but I saw that McCormack was not exag- 
gerating. He was in dead earnest. 

"A foolish kid-notion," he admitted, "but it 
worked. I always carried the thing about; and 
when I shoved it outside the window and issued 
orders the driver wheeled as I desired and I 
noticed the man behind drop off and disappear 
in the dusk. 

"But I was shaking all over. If those 
brigands and I've no doubt they were that 



had put up a fight I should probably have been 

"February and March slipped by and April 
brought the flowers of spring and that balminess 
of air which makes Milan a place of joy at that 
time of year. I was disturbed for the immediate 
future, for again my funds were below the mark 
of safety. But vocally I seemed to be on solid 

"My high tones at last were coming with free- 
dom and had the quality corresponding to those 
in the lower part of the voice. And that elusive, 
to me, mezza-voce seemed well-nigh conquered. 
Musically I was well along and the repertoire one 
of respectable proportions. In a year my ad- 
vancement had been rather remarkable; so, at 
any rate, it appeared, and others besides Saba- 
tini spoke of this which came back to me by 
roundabout courses. 

"What it had usually taken others much longer 
to acquire had been given me quickly. Yet an 
operatic career (so far as Italy might be intro- 
duced into it) did not loom upon the immediate 
horizon with any significant glow." 

John lapsed into silence again, looked out of 
the window, and back at me. "Stamford," he 



said. We picked up our hats and walked for- 
ward and out to the car platform as the train drew 
into the station and stopped. The machine was 
purring along the Boston Post Road before Mc- 
Cormack returned to his subject. 

"Somewhere," he remarked, "there was 
started a story that Sabatini demanded his tui- 
tion in advance. That's an error. He never, 
at any time during my study with him, mentioned 
in that connection the word 'money' to me. And 
it was some time after I left Milan, in May, Nine- 
teen Six, that I was able to hand him the forty 
dollars I owed him for those last two months 
when I was on my way from London to sing at the 
San Carlo, in Naples. 

"When I went to him with my financial 
troubles he smiled in his fatherly way, saying: 
'You shall not worry, Giovanni, about that small 
sum. One day, when it is convenient, you will 
send him to me.' He regarded me as a son ; and 
I well remember his greeting a day when I ar- 
rived in Milan from London, March, 1909, an 
arrival on a train which also carried Sabatini's 
own son into the station. 

"We came down the station platform, very 
near together, with young Sabatini slightly in 



advance. His father shook hands with him, 
nothing more. Then he walked on, to me, and 
kissed me on both cheeks. 

"He understood me," explained McCormack. 
"That, unquestionably, was one of the causes of 
his moulding my voice as he did, and of guiding 
me in my interpretations of the opera roles I 
learned. He would say to me: 'Crescendo 
here, Giovanni, to secure the effect we want' ; or 
'Some more emphasis to that phrase' ; or 'Do not 
hurry it.' He knew the finishing touches re- 
quired. Yet he was insistent that I put into each 
interpretation the individuality of my own con- 
ception. He liked the artist to 'give and take' in 
his own way, here and there, as seemed to him 

"I left Sabatini, on the morning I started 
back to Ireland, standing at the door of his studio 
and waving me a farewell. It marked the con- 
clusion of my formal studies with him, not the 
end of our friendship, for he lived eight years 
longer, long enough to allow me to be able to 
send him more pupils than he could find time to 

The machine stopped at the McCormack door 
and we got out and went into the house. 


John McCormack at the New York Hippodrome, April 28, 1918, singing to the 
this occasion numbered more than seven thousand persons, one thous 
This amount was surpassed a few months later, he 
Mi. McCormack for ' The Fighting Si> 

iience ever seen in "America's greatest playhouse." The audience on 
ang seated on the stage. The receipts approximated 34,00000. 

same theatre, when at the concert by 
inth," the receipts reached $45,000.00 



A storm broke before the dinner hour passed ; 
an old-fashioned storm with lightning and crack- 
ling thunder-peals that reverberated from ear- 
splitting sonority into decrescendi that carry 
them off, fainter and fainter, into vast distance. 
The rain fell fast, and whipped by the gusts 
against the window-panes made eerie sounds. 
Inside Rocklea we were snug enough. Over the 
coffee the fury of the elements heightened, if 
anything, that feeling of content which comes to 
a healthy person after having dined well. 

Cyril McCormack was leaning in the hollow of 
his mother's arm, and half against the chair, talk- 
ing to her in an affectionately manly way. 
Gwenny sat in her father's lap, her cheek against 
his, one hand fondling his neck; but her drooping 
lids forecast the sand-man's coming. The rest 
of us Miss Foley, Edwin Schneider (one of the 



family, almost) and I sat variously about, in 
good humor. 

Wanting to smoke, and write a bit, I disap- 
peared after a time in the direction of that re- 
mote study referred to in an earlier chapter. 
From the higher windows a better view of the 
Sound was to be had. I peered, as well as the 
driving rain would allow, to see what the waters 
were doing, but nothing more than veils of spray 
from waves dashing against the pier was my 

So I went to the desk and work. 

It was a night either for early retiring or late 
sitting-up and the former evidently must have 
been the majority verdict in the McCormack fam- 
ily ; for I had not been busy half an hour before 
John strolled in to announce himself the sole 
survivor, and talkatively inclined. 

I invited him to one of his own chairs and 
pushed back from the desk to face him. 

"If I were a painter," began the tenor, "such 
a storm would send me with tubes and brush to 
my easel. I shouldn't have to see it in detail, 
either. What the darkness reveals would be 
enough. My imagination could do the rest." 

"Then it suggests something to you?" I asked. 


John acquiesced. "Those first days in Dub- 
lin, when I arrived there from Italy after the 
death of my second father, Patrick Foley. Some 
great prop seemed all at once to have been re- 
moved from the world, which loomed vaguely 
larger and more threatening to my youthful 
mind. A sort of cold solemnity seemed upon 
everything, as though the world itself were a 
personality that looked with disinterested ques- 
tioning upon me, as if to say: 'And what, pray, 
will you do now?' It was very much that way; 
and this night is a reminder. 

"I feel, as you know," said the tenor, "rather 
deeply. During those days that dragged on 
after my return I could not set myself to any- 
thing. Something seemed to have been removed 
from my being. I slept badly and had no appe- 
tite and could not concentrate. Over the whole 
of me was an uncontrollable desire to fold up and 
lie down. 

"Of course, that sort of thing could not be per- 
mitted to go on indefinitely. The fact revealed 
itself one morning as I arose. So I summoned 
a resolute manner, squelched as well as I was able 
the dejection within me and went out of the 
house in quest of work. If effort would count, 



I argued, I should have no self-accusation; and 
the following week was one of sufficient activity, 
so far as I was concerned. 

"In the evenings I saw Miss Foley, my fiancee, 
and together we would review the sum of the 
day's accomplishments. She had, besides her 
own qualities of appeal to me, her father's astute- 
ness of mind. I think we began to see how 
necessary each was to the other. For myself, I 
was endeavoring constantly to escape answering 
in my own mind an internally voiced question 
which I never allowed to be fully put. But I 
knew, without practising self-deception, what it 
was. I wanted to make Miss Foley Mrs. Mc- 

"But there was the important matter of earn- 
ing capacity to be faced. 

"It was when I was in one of these moods that 
I met Tom Bissette, Miss Foley's brother-in-law, 
and confided my trouble to him. I asked what 
he thought about my reflection upon the wisdom 
of marriage at such a time. 

'The best thing for you both,' he promptly 
replied. 'So far as I can see nothing can be 
gained by waiting. There may be hardship for 
awhile, but what's that to a man of courage? I 



have confidence in you, Mac,' he averred; 'you 
will make a career, and money. And if you 
want to marry Lily, go ahead.' 

"Can you fancy what a tonic such advice was 
to me?" asked John, but he allowed me no reply. 
He went right on. "I hurried to Miss Foley by 
the shortest route, and told her I thought we 
shouldn't delay our wedding any longer. She 
listened smilingly, while I argued on. I dare- 
say I was agitated. When I at length paused for 
breath, and to survey her reception of my pre- 
sumably unexpected announcement, she calmly 
rejoined: 'I think so too, John.' 

"After that our sole thought was of the wed- 
ding, and to hasten it. I wrote the family, in 
Athlone, and received the approbation of my 
father and mother with assurances that they 
would be with us on the appointed date, if at all 

"At last my heart's desire was to be realized. 
Singing took a back seat during those prepara- 
tory days for the ceremony except for the desul- 
tory phrases I sang for the joy of the approach- 
ing happiest hour of my h'fe. Lily brightened, 
too, and bloomed. 

"The Foley family was prominent in Dublin, 


and the announcement of her coming marriage 
to me on July second, Nineteen Six, was not 
without its community interest. And on that 
day, at 7 o'clock in the morning, Lily Foley and 
I were united in the Marlborough Street Cathe- 
dral, in Dublin, and left for London at 8:30 the 
same morning. 

"We should have enjoyed a lengthy honey- 
moon, but we decided it out of fashion. So 
we contented ourselves with a trip to London, 
where we prowled delightedly about, two happy 
youngsters with an abiding faith in things. 

"But the McCormack exchequer was by no 
means in a corpulent state, and it was not long 
before I realized that something must be done 
to keep the wolf from the garage." 

"You mean the one where you kept your Rolls- 

"Yes," said John with a grin. "Well, I was 
seized with a bright idea. When I had made my 
twenty-five records of songs for the Gramophone 
Company you will recall that the contract stipu- 
lated I should not be asked to do over any record 
which chanced to be slightly imperfect. Re- 
membering this, it occurred to me to go to the 
Gramophone people and suggest doing over any, 



or every, record. I was, of course, a better artist 
than when these songs had been sung, and I be- 
lieved that some advertising of my return from 
Italy would stimulate their sale." 

"Not a bad idea," I commented. 

"Humph!" said McCormack. "You think 

"Didn't the Gramophone manager?" 

"He did not. What do you suppose he said? 
That any records I might make would be useless 
to him. 

"But," remarked John, with the flicker of a 
smile about his mouth, "that company has since 
paid me let me see yes, it has paid me in 
royalties, for records I afterward made, one hun- 
dred and fifty thousand dollars. My secondary 
proposition, when Mrs. McCormack and I were in 
London, at the end of our honeymoon, was to 
sing ten records for ten pounds apiece. They 
might have acquired sole possession of them at 
that price, and have had no obligation to pay me 
a dollar of royalties. 

"Of course, at the time, the refusal was a blow. 
Yet it did not propel me into the state of dejec- 
tion which many might assume would have fol- 
lowed. I have the artist nature, but none of the 



tendency towards abrupt discouragement which 
that nature is presumed to have in the face of 

"My faith never really wavered, and a natural 
optimism buoyed me. And Mrs. McCormack 
was a brave little soul, a true wife who stood up 
bravely under all adversity with never a word 
of complaint. 

"So I made the rounds of concert agency offi- 
ces, getting a few insignificant engagements 
which paid little. More, much more., than I 
could earn we were spending for actual living ex- 
penses; and the small sum I had had when we 
were married was nearly gone." 

I should like, here, to interject what Michael 
Keane told me of those McCormack struggles 
during my talk with him in his New York of- 

"Shortly after McCormack came to London, 
upon finishing his studies in Italy, he made a 
contract with a London agent. The boy was 
inexperienced in the ways of business, and being 
generous himself he did not question the equity 
of any contract which might be drawn for him to 
sign. But this agent did not succeed in getting 
him any really serious engagements. 



"Some idea of the character of this contract 
may be gathered from the fact that it was for the 
duration of McCormack's life. Fancy such an 
arrangement. Of course it couldn't last. Yet 
the cancellation of that document cost the tenor, 
years afterward, ten thousand dollars." 

Mr. Keane had additional information of Mc- 
Cormack's experiences during those London 
days, all of which will be duly set down in the 
proper places. 

"It was at this time that chance brought me, 
again, into communication with the Moody-Man- 
ners Opera Company," resumed McCormack. 
"At the request of Charles Manners I sang an 
audition for him, and he was pleased. 'If you 
could only act as well as you sing,' he mused, 
'I'd give you twenty pounds a week.' This 
brought a retort such as I had made, in an almost 
similar way, before that if I could act it would 
be Covent Garden I would seek, instead of a posi- 
tion with his company. 

"London having shown slight signs of imme- 
diately warming to me," remarked McCormack, 
"we thought Italy might offer some operatic 
chance. A consultation in the John McCormack 
family ensued, and the board of directors con- 



sisting of Mrs. McCormack and myself voted 
unanimously to make the journey to Milan, and, 
if necessary, to any other cities where possible 
engagements might be lurking." 

Here the tenor got up, to go to the window. 
The rain still beat fiercely against the glass, 
driven by the wind which we could hear howling 
like a soul in anguish. I followed, to get the 
kinks out of my legs. A single flash of lightning 
made bright for a moment the terraced lawn and 
the leaping waters of the Sound. 

"I had no more chance in Italy," remarked the 
tenor, "than a man would have trying to swim in 
that surf. I sang audition after audition; and 
opera-house managers listened, and passed me 
on. But auditions are not a fair criterion and 
my nerves never allowed me to do myself justice 
by them. 

"We hadn't been long back in our small quar- 
ters in London before Fortune permitted herself 
to smile, just a little, upon us. I was desperate, 
willing enough to take anything which would 
pay at all. Through an agent I secured an en- 
gagement to sing at Queen's Hotel, in Leicester 
Square for a guinea. It was not cabaret, as 



it has been said to be, but the appearance was in- 
consequential and meant nothing more than the 
five dollars I received. 

"Other engagements, at different hotels, were 
offered me and gladly accepted. All the while I 
studied at home, and practised rigidly and sought 
to preserve a tranquil mind and an unwavering 
heart. But it wasn't easy. I began, during 
those dark days, to ask myself if I had not been 
ungenerous in asking the woman I loved to share 
with me those troublous times; it was difficult 
enough for a man. 

"Then, one morning, an agent informed me 
he had arranged for me to appear as assisting 
artist to Camille Clifford, the original Gibson 
girl, and though the fee was only one guinea I 
jumped, as one will say, at the chance. That 
engagement led to others of the same kind, each 
one yielding approximately the same compensa- 
tion and very little honor. 

"Nevertheless, I would not have missed for a 
great deal the experience these appearances as 
assisting artist taught. I was, at any rate, be- 
coming more at ease before an audience and prac- 
tising in publi; the things which I had learned 



in the studio and which, really, are never fixed in 
a singer's equipment until they have been utilized 
over and over again before many listeners, pre- 
sumably critical. 

"One of these singers whom I assisted, auring 
that part of Nineteen Six, was Edna May. I 
know that she is generally regarded as a comic 
opera star or was, in her period of success 
whose beauty and charm constituted her chief at- 
tributes of appeal. At the same time, I found 
her voice an excellent one and her ability as a 
singer distinctly above the average. 

"It was a struggle, especially during those hot 
August days that leave one physically limp at 
their close and scarcely in the mood to be cheery 
and bright, a struggle that went on during the 
fall and winter, into the next spring. But Mrs. 
McCormack and I kept up, nevertheless. To- 
gether we would plan for the future with as much 
fortitude and confidence, too as though the 
ultimate outcome were assured. 

'You are destined to win, John,' Mrs. Mc- 
Cormack would reiterate, and I believed that she 
spoke the truth. 

"How close she was to it we neither of us then 
knew. I think it was the consciousness of our 



doing all that we could do 'that kept our faith 
staunch. But better days were not far distant, 
and in March, 1907, there emerged from the 
glowering sky a ray of promise." 




McCormack had been standing at the study 
window during the closing part of his descrip- 
tion of those trying London days. There 
seemed, in the storm outside, something which 
held and fascinated him; a similarity, perhaps, 
in the rain and wind and lightning, with inter- 
mittent thunder-claps, to the forces which op- 
posed him when he and his girl-wife faced to- 
gether the privations which the young seem best 
able to endure. 

"I had met in the course of my London trav- 
els," said John, "a professor of singing in the 
Royal College of Music Albert Vesetti. He 
had been accompanist to Adelina Patti, and on 
several occasions he had heard me sing and liked 
my voice. There were others, too, whom I 
formed acquaintance with, Charles Marshall, 
composer of 'I Hear You Calling,' who had 
played for me at small concerts, being one of 
these. But Vesetti had influence, and after one 



of my most satisfactory appearances he offered to 
write a letter of introduction for me to Willie 
Boosey, who was an executive in the music pub- 
lishing house of Chappell and Company, and 
another letter to Arthur Boosey, of Boosey and 
Company. These men were first cousins, but 
that did not prevent their being business rivals. 
It was a gracious act, and I accepted the letters 
with every appreciation of the motive prompting 

"Somehow, however, I was evidently not in- 
tended at that particular time, to meet Willie 
Boosey. I sent word in by a clerk that I had a 
letter from Vesetti, and was informed that Mr. 
Boosey would see me in a few minutes, and would 
I wait. I did. For over an hour I sat patiently, 
until patience became worn to the bone. 

"I thereupon though precisely why I am 
unable to fathom went from Chappell's to 
Arthur Boosey. But instead of waiting there, 
as I had done in the first instance, I sent my letter 
up to Arthur Boosey and left the place. So 
when I was sought to be taken to this gentleman 
I was nowhere about. 

"This circumstance appeared to amuse Arthur 
Boosey, for at his next meeting with Vesetti he 



remarked : 'That was a strange young man you 
sent to me. He never even waited to learn 
whether I could see him. Have him call round 

"Now Arthur Boosey was in control of the 
Boosey Ballad Concerts, which formed an im- 
portant part of London's musical offerings, and 
Vesetti had told me that if I appeared success- 
fully in one of them my opportunities might be 
many and profitable. He was amused at Arthur 
Boosey 's account of my call, and appeared to 
understand that I had not remained, after de- 
livering his introductory letter, for fear of annoy- 
ing the distinguished Boosey. 

' 'Never mind,' consoled Vesetti, 'go again; 
and this time stay until you meet him.' 

"I found Arthur Boosey a kindly man, with an 
understanding of human nature and a sympathy 
for struggling young singers providing they dis- 
played potentialities. His faith in Vesetti's 
judgment was confirmed, after he had heard me 
sing, and inviting me to return to his office we sat 
down to talk business. 

' 'How would you like to sing at my next 
ballad concert?' he asked, after our introductory 
talk. You can guess my reply. 'Will three 



guineas be enough?' I replied, 'Yes, plenty.' 
Whereupon the arrangements were concluded, 
and I departed to prepare for the most auspicious 
London appearance which had thus far offered. 
"Mrs. McCormack was excited when I brought 
her the news. 'It will make you,' she declared. 
So I got ready for the concert, working the 
'Questa 'o Quella aria from 'Rigoletto,' and the 
other works I had chosen as nearly perfect in 
those respects I desired. Samuel Liddle, who 
was the official Boosey Ballad Concerts accom- 
panist, and who had played for me when I sang 
Stephen Adams's 'Nirvana' for Arthur Boosey, 
gave me a suggestion, at this time, which turned 
out amazingly well. 

'What you ought to do, Mac,' he advised, 'is 
to find some new ballad that just suits you, and 
introduce it at the first concert.' 

" 'Fine,' I replied, 'if I could find the ballad.' 
"At this Liddle dug out a piece of manuscript 
from his desk, went over to the piano and began 
to play it. The song was called 'A Farewell,' 
and had been set by Liddle himself to words by 
Charles Kingsley. I saw that it had possibili- 
ties, and after I had tried it over which I did 
then and there I found that it suited my voice so 



well that I decided, immediately, to use it at my 
ballad concert debut. 

To many readers of this book an English bal- 
lad concert is an institution whose functions are 
understood; but to those unfamiliar with the 
Boosey Ballad Concerts it must be explained that 
more than one singer rose or fell through them. 
They were held in Queen's Hall (until a few 
years ago, when circumstances that need not be 
related here caused their transfer to Albert Hall) , 
on Saturday afternoons, and were attended by the 
smartest of London folk as well as by the masses. 
Musicians of position always attended, because 
there often appeared some distinguished pianist 
or violinist in addition to the half-dozen or 
more singers who carried the main part of a 

It was not unusual for the London Symphony 
Society patrons to purchase seats for a symphony 
concert at Queen's Hall box-office, and at 
the same time obtain tickets for the approach- 
ing ballad concert. Established artists always 
found admirers there to greet them, and these 
connoisseurs amateur and professional in- 
clined invariably a listening ear for the new- 
comer, and a critical ear it was. 



"I will not intimate that all my eggs were in 
one basket," observed McCormack. "But . . . 
I knew what it would mean if I created any im- 
pression short of the exceptional. 'Getting by,' 
as we say, would never do. It had to be some- 
thing of an emphatic nature; the accomplish- 
ment of enough to set talking those whose opin- 
ions carried weight. 

"I arrived early at my dressing-room," con- 
tinued the tenor, "in a state of calm. It was a 
form of nervousness I like, for it presages just the 
proper degree of apprehensiveness to balance 
the confidence necessary to do one's best. I had 
done my worrying at home: at night, when I 
should have slept, during my hours of practice 
preparation and in my talks with Mrs. McCor- 
mack. So my feeling, as I waited my turn, had 
in it nothing which an interpretative artist need 

"There was a large audience that Friday after- 
noon, the seats being quite filled. I was fifth on 
the list of singers, a favorable position, and my 
introductory aria, 'Questa 'o Quella. 9 The mo- 
ment to go out came at last, and with Samuel 
Liddle, the official accompanist, I appeared be- 
fore my most important assemblage." 



John stopped walking and removed his hands 
from his pockets. He selected a cigarette from 
a tray filled with them, and resumed his tramping 
between desk and window. But he did not light 
up. Twirling the cigarette between thumb and 
forefinger of one hand he continued his story. 

"For a space of time infinitesimally small my 
heart sank. Nearly all musicians who appear 
before the public, and speakers, too, experience 
such a feeling, at some time, I am sure. It is 
the quick surge of doubt; of possible failure to 
meet the issue squarely. Yet I would not term 
it fear. Just a natural apprehension that 
comes and departs almost in the flicker of the 

"I was myself, my calm self, almost instantly. 
And as I looked into the faces before me I 
thought: 'Well, here is my chance, and I shall 
make the most of it.' Then Liddle began the 

"Before the song was finished I recognized 
from the audience that I was not failing. The 
voice was responsive and smooth, I had control 
of my resources and felt that my enunciation 
could be clearly understood. I could see little 
signs which auditors invariably indulge in when- 



ever favorably impressed; and this encouraged 
me to let myself go more freely. 

"One quickly catches the temper of an assem- 
blage after a song has been sung. There is a 
difference between applause, spontaneously 
given because the givers have been moved, and 
the perfunctory clapping of hands which caps a 
mediocre effort. I left the stage, after profuse 
acknowledgement, with my nerve-centres tin- 
gling. I seemed to float, rather than to walk, 
to the stage exit. And following me came the 
sound of many palms beating against one an- 

"Several persons were congregated about the 
place back stage where I stepped out of sight of 
the audience. I recall hearing, as from some 
distance, congratulatory words, and of receiving 
a hearty slap, from some one, on my back. The 
remainder of that afternoon remains in my mem- 
ory as a sort of intoxicating daze. 

"Mrs. McCormack, who had gone to Dublin, 
where Cyril was born shortly after my ballad con- 
cert debut, sent me a telegram; and after I had 
read it I could only think of my faith rewarded; 
of answered prayers . . . and of an overpower- 
ing sense of gratitude. 



"In the morning I looked out of our window 
into the street below with exultation. It was no 
premature anticipation of immediate rewards or 
of suddenly acquired fame; nothing of such na- 
ture. But at last there seemed a semblance of 
something tangible, to which I might attach my- 
self with an assurance of reasonable hopes. 
Succinctly put: it was a successfully executed 
first step. 

"But if I rejoiced for Mrs. McCormack and for 
myself I felt thankful that my good friends who 
recommended me, and Arthur Boosey who pro- 
vided me my chance, had not had their confi- 
dence misplaced. In this buoyant vein I called 
on Mr. Boosey. Without hesitation, yet with no 
fulsome words, he informed me that I had ex- 
ceeded expectations. 'If you do as well at the 
second concert no one will be sorry.' It was 
like him, to put it in that way; no rousing of 
false hopes that might be dissipated at the next 
test, just wholesome encouragement which is 
what the young singer on the brink of progress 

McCormack had rather worked himself up in 
relating this debut. I did not wonder at it. He 
lived that afternoon over again, right there in the 



secluded Rocklea study while the storm blared 
outside a weird accompaniment to the tale. 

"And the second Boosey Concert, how did 
that go?" 

"Even better, if anything, than the first. 
You see, I had more confidence; I really had. 
It was more of the genuine order. The sort I 
possessed at the first concert was more or less 
false, which was commanded by what will I had 
to come and stay with me for that particular 

"I am told that there had been some talk 
among musicians, and lovers of music, about the 
singing of a young Irish tenor at the last Boosey 
Ballad Concert, that he had proved a surprise, 
and was to sing on the next programme. Of 
course, among people who follow musical affairs 
an interest to hear me ensued. You know how 
it is; a personal desire to investigate for one's 
self, to determine how much of truth there may 
be in assertions of the reputed capacities of a new 

"I did not, of course, know that my second 
appearance was to be memorable in my life and 
to enlist the subsequent confidence and support 
of a man influential in large affairs in London. 



Little things so often have a marked bearing 
upon our destinies, and here was an instance 
with respect to my own. 

"The man I refer to he is dead, now, to the 
sorrow of innumerable thousands was Sir John 
Murray Scott. He was secretary to the late Sir 
Richard Wallace, son of the Marquis of Herford, 
whose art collection was one of the most com- 
plete ever in the possession of a single individual. 
Sir John had been practically reared by Sir Rich- 
ard Wallace, whose wife, Lady Wallace, regarded 
Sir John almost as her own son. And it is true 
that after the death of her husband she sum- 
moned Sir John and told him it was her wish 
that the famous art collection be conveyed to 
him. It was like Sir John to refuse. He ex- 
plained that, though he was a man of means, it 
would be difficult for him to pay the inheritance 
tax on the art collection. But apart from this, 
he insisted that the time had come for these art 
works to be made available to the people, and he 
therefore suggested that it be tendered the Brit- 
ish Museum. 

"Sir John," continued McCormack, "was 
himself an admirable pianist. His musical 



knowledge was extensive and he possessed to a 
remarkable degree the critical faculty. No less 
exacting a music reviewer than Jimmy Davidson, 
critic for the London Times, respected Sir John's 
judgment to an extent that caused him, fre- 
quently, to ask his friend to attend a notable con- 
cert and write the critique. 

"At that second Boosey Ballad Concert Sir 
John heard me sing for the first time. And I 
appeared to have qualities of voice and feeling 
and style which enlisted his respect, as I was 
later to discover. To have gained an admirer 
in a man of the standing and knowledge of Sir 
John would have been compensation enough for 
one appearance, but that Friday afternoon did 
another thing for me. 

"It so happened that the Telegraph's music 
critic delegated the covering of that concert to a 
gifted writer on the staff, Robert Maguire. And 
'Bob' Maguire, as he was affectionately called, 
was a man of culture. Without having been 
trained in the technique of music, Maguire had 
the faculty of unerring judgment, even though 
incapable of discerning the whys and wherefores 
on which his judgment was based. I only know 



that his opinions in matters musical commanded 
respect among the many who were fortunate in 
having his acquaintance, and that he wrote enter- 
tainingly and often with brilliant style. More- 
over, he had a fine baritone voice and sang well. 

"Bob heard me at the second Boosey con- 
cert ; and in the Telegraph of the next day there 
appeared, in his article, mention of a new tenor, 
an Irishman named John McCormack, whose 
future held superlative promise. 'It would be 
unfair,' wrote Maguire, in substance, 'to compare 
this inexperienced singer with Caruso, yet his 
voice has much of the quality of that greatest of 
all tenors.' 

"When I read that article," said John, "I no 
longer doubted. It seemed a mere matter of 
time ; a series of progressive steps onward, until 
I should finally be accepted as an artist and ac- 
corded the engagements and emoluments which 
an artist commands. From that day I may say 
that the turning point in my career arrived. I 
never was unfortunate enough to drop backward. 
There came disappointments, trials and obstacles 
to overcome; but the drudgery and heart-aches 
were past. 

"Some time afterward, when we moved into 


another section of London, I made a delightful 
discovery my next door neighbor, a man whom 
until then I had never seen, was Bob Maguire; 
and we became intimate friends." 




Noroton, Connecticut, lies in a beautiful coun- 
try. Skirting a part of Long Island Sound, it 
drops back through sweeps of hills, green and 
wooded, that form a landscape varying to the 
eye. It is uncommonly beautiful after rain, 
which freshens; and the morning following our 
extended vigil the countryside burst with beauty. 

I was up and dressed early. A morning walk, 
in that section, is no opportunity to be neglected. 
I descended from my room, treading quietly 
down the staircase lest I arouse others who had 
not done with their sleep. 

So intent was I with caution that I did not 
observe, until I was on the bottom landing, a 
figure bent over the stick-rack in the hall. As 
the figure straightened up I recognized the shoul- 
ders, broad as a walking-beam, and the rest of 
John McCormack's sturdy frame. He turned, 
and seeing me, sniffed in surprise and opened 
the outer door. 



"Running out for some fresh air?" 

I confessed the accusation and my gratification 
that I should have aid in the exploration. 

"Well, then, you'll have to walk. No loaf- 
ing, or you walk alone." 

I said nothing in reply. I needed my breath, 
for the tenor struck a pace, and held to it, that 
would have made Dan O'Leary cast an envious 
eye. For several miles John had no words for 
me. He was cheery enough, and companion- 
able in a silence we both understood. But the 
present concerned nature and a brisk walk and 
the deep inhaling of health-giving pure air. 

"Tired?" demanded McCormack. 

I lied a little in a denial. 

John looked down at me I'm shorter than 
he, and some pounds lighter and grinned. 
"I weighed before starting," he confided. "I'm 
dropping steadily, under my training." I re- 
plied that he looked it, as he did. Not much 
above the two hundred mark, his lines were ath- 
letic and showed a man of thirty-four condition- 
ing fast. 

"What did you think of that story I told you 
last night?" 

I answered that he had stopped at an interest- 


ing point at which I was not unwilling he should 
resume. John grunted at this, strode on for a 
couple of hundred yards farther, and picked up 
his narrative. 

"I don't suppose any one ever will know the 
joy I got from the letters my father and mother 
sent me when they heard of my singing at the 
second Boosey Concert. You would have 
thought they were happier than I. Well, pos- 
sibly they were; for I know something, myself, 
of parental love. It's a wonderful thing. A 
man's never completely a man, nor a woman a 
woman, until children come. With them the 
world takes on a different look. It puts some- 
thing into the perspective which isn't otherwise 
there. So the letters from mother and father 
made my own gladness the greater because of 

"Vincent O'Brien rather chortled a bit, too. 
You see, he took a justifiable pride in his tenor 
discovery, and Sabatini, my good maestro, who 
wrote that Giovanni was only getting started and 
reminded me of numerous counselings he had 
given me in the past. 

"Mrs. McCormack, naturally, also wrote, 
from Dublin. It thrilled me to read her words 



and know that her patience was not to be in vain. 

"One meets many people in music life, and 
I have been no exception to this. Sometimes 
these meetings are uncommonly productive, and 
lead to strange happenings. I almost think they 
are the guidings of Destiny's hand. I had such 
an experience two days after the second Ballad 
Concert, when Miss Eva Gauthier, a Canadian 
soprano then studying in London, called me by 
'phone and asked if I would like to go with 
her, the following evening, to call on Sir John 
Murray Scott. I of course knew who Sir John 
was; who, in London, didn't? Yet I was loath 
to accept Miss Gauthier's invitation without one 
from Sir John himself. So I explained to Miss 
Gauthier. She communicated with him . . . 
which she could with propriety do, because he 
was a close friend of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Can- 
ada's premier, whose protegee Miss Gauthier was. 

"Sir John responded immediately, saying: 
'If he is the young tenor I heard at the Boosey 
concert bring him with you. I admire his voice 
and should like to meet him.' 

"We went and that marked the beginning of 
a friendship that lasted until Sir John's death. 
I've always called him my fairy-godfather, be- 



cause of his kindnesses. He was a huge man 
physically, and just as large in brain and heart. 
He played a piano for us that evening, with a 
touch more velvety and singing than many a dis- 
tinguished pianist I have heard. I recall his say- 
ing that the test for a pianoforte artist was an 
ability to play the slow movement of Beethoven's 
'Moonlight' Sonata ; just as the mark of a singer's 
skill rose or fell according to the cantilena dis- 
played. I sang several songs that evening for 
Sir John, whose presence had an indescribably 
stimulating effect upon me. 

"The news of my Boosey successes traveled 
fast. I received engagements for a number of 
concerts, and they paid fairly well and sent me 
steadily along the path I desired. Offers of 
various kinds came also and some I was glad to 

"Arthur Boosey, convinced now of my useful- 
ness to him, summoned me. 'I am, as you 
know, finishing with the ballad concerts for the 
season, but next year I can use you for each of 
the seven. And if the fee is satisfactory we will 
draw the contract now.' That was the start of 
our long-held relations, which resulted in a life 
contract which is one of my prized possessions 



to sing at any Boosey Ballad Concert I may 
designate at the highest appearance fee ever paid. 

"After having waited and worked so long for 
recognition it was good to taste it. I was like 
a Marathon runner who drinks thirstily of wa- 
ter after his punishing journey; but I tried to 
evade the danger of complacency. Long before, 
a friend, Mrs. Denny Lane, had warned me of 
the proverb: 'Non progredi, est regredi,' and 
I heeded that. In art one never stands still; 
there must be movement, either forward or back, 
and I wished to advance. 

"About this time Willie Boosey sent for me. 
I of course went at once to see him and was 
taken into his office where he shook hands with 
me cordially and asked me to be seated. He 
did not endeavor to disguise the issue, his con- 
versation after he had congratulated me on my 
ballad concert success turning at once to his 

own series. 

66 6 

You are an artist,' he said, 'and the public 
likes you. I want you to sing at my concerts 
and am willing to pay you your own price.' 

"I thanked him, and answered, 'I am sorry, 
Mr. Boosey, but you haven't money enough in 
your establishment to induce me to appear on 



your programmes. Arthur Boosey gave me my 
chance when I needed it, and I shall remain with 

"Willie Boosey sat there looking at me for 
some time before making answer; I'll always re- 
spect what he said. 'Thanks, McCormack,' he 
replied, Tm glad to know one singer who un- 
derstands gratitude.' I left Willie Boosey more 
than ever sure that the straight course is the 
best, in respects other than keeping one's con- 
science at peace. 

"Spring was near at hand, and just before it 
broke in that year, Nineteen Seven, came my first 
invitation to sing at a symphony concert. The 
artist who had been engaged fell ill suddenly, 
and word of the opening reached my new-found 
friend, Sir John Murray Scott, chairman of the 
Sunday Concert Society, who immediately nom- 
inated me for the vacancy. I was gratified when 
Henry J. Wood, conductor of the London Sym- 
phony, asked me if I would appear because a 
year before, when William Ludwig had pre- 
sented me to Sir Henry, he had not encouraged 

"The concert was one of those held on Sun- 
day afternoons and was largely attended. The 



rehearsal had been accomplished, I felt, to the 
satisfaction of the conductor, and I was less ap- 
prehensive after it; for Wood held rigid ideas 
musically and I wished particularly to have my 
musicianship satisfy him. My object was to 
please sufficiently to justify being engaged to 
sing at one of the Friday afternoon concerts." 

"And were you?" 

"Yes; the first symphony appearance roused 
the best in me. And on the Good Friday pro- 
gramme I appeared as soloist. But I think that 
Sir John Murray Scott was chiefly responsible 
for the re-engagement. He believed the success 
merited encouragement and he counted my sym- 
phony debut as that. The second appearance 
rather fortified my confidence. I was not so 
conceited as to regard a moderate triumph as 
providing laurels to be rested on ; but the public 
and the press, and some musician friends, told 
me that I was ready for serious singing under 
large auspices, and I believed them. 

"But in the midst of these bits of good for- 
tune came another, and greater one. For on the 
26th of March, Nineteen Seven, in Dublin, Cyril 
was born. I got word, by telegraph, and can't 
you just imagine my feelings ? I wanted to shout 



the good news from the housetops. I can safely 
say I never felt more genuinely proud in my life ; 
in fact I felt as every young father feels at the 
safe arrival of his first-born. I had hoped our 
first-born would be a son, and the news seemed 
further evidence that I was being smiled on. 
Music disappeared from my mind, for the time 
being, and I hurried to Dublin and remained 
until Mrs. McCormack and Cyril were well 
enough to allow me to return without worry- 
ing about them. 

"Every week seemed to strengthen the friend- 
ship between Sir John Murray Scott and me. 
He was good enough to invite me often to his 
home, and there I benefited far more even than 
I was then able to comprehend. For Sir John's 
outlook upon life was broad, and he imparted to 
those privileged to come in contact with him an 
appreciation of what such a perspective meant. 
I know in my own case that he stimulated the 
finer qualities and eventually enabled me to un- 
derstand that to become a great singing artist 
in the full sense one must be more, merely, 
than singer and musician. 

"Some time before these days (to retrace our 
steps a bit), Gordon Cleather had suggested 



my seeing George Edwardes, manager of the 
London Gaiety and Daly's Theatre, who was 
then planning to present 'The Waltz Dream,' 
which has a fine part for tenor and takes a tenor 
to sing it. But Mr. Edwardes was out of town, 
and the acting manager J. A. E. Malone 
whom everyone called 'Alphabet' Malone, was 
'chesty' under his temporary authority. 

"He consented to hear me sing, which struck 
me as a bit of humor because, while I was in the 
midst of the aria (I think the 'Flower Song,' from 
'Carmen'), I saw that he was utterly unable to 
make anything out of it. Nevertheless, he was 
not unwilling, at that, to pass an opinion and 
offer me a position in the chorus at ten dollars 
a week. 'But, Malone,' Cleather said, 'you 
surely can use McCormack as understudy to your 
first tenor.' Malone, however, held no such no- 
tion. 'Take it or leave it,' he said. I couldn't 
well take a position in the chorus, so I 'left it.' 

"I related this experience, one evening, to 
Sir John Murray Scott, when calling at his 
house, and he laughed. 'One of these days,' he 
said, 'that will make a good story.' Whether 
it does, there is a sequel, which I will tell a little 
farther on, that did make a good story, and 



brought to Mr. Edwardes's manager a rebuke for 
having failed, at the time, to communicate with 
him concerning me. 

"My voice, as warm weather approached, be- 
came more responsive and my ambitions in- 
creased. Covent Garden was a spot on which 
I had always had a secret eye, and every time I 
heard an opera there I yearned, a little more 
than the time before, for the day which would 
find me singing on that historic stage ; more than 
once, on such an occasion, having said to Mrs. 
McCormack that I'd give anything, sometime, to 
have her see me up there. 

"However, I kept my ambition to myself; for 
presumptuousness is one element I dislike. 
Still, the inner suggestion continued to make it- 
self felt, so I was brought one evening to Cleo- 
fonte Campanini, who was the Covent Garden 
first-conductor. He was courteous enough, and 
agreed to hear me. 'Bring something up to my 
rehearsal room,' he suggested, 'and we'll see how 
it goes.' 

"I did, as soon as I could get my music; and 
I sang through for him, from start to close, the 
tenor part in 'Cavalleria Rusticana.' 'Hm,' said 
Campanini when I had sung the last note, 'bella 



voce, but I think you are not ready yet for 
Covent Garden.' ' 

"I was under the impression," I interjected, 
"that Campanini was responsible for your Co- 
vent Garden engagement, and also for your hav- 
ing been brought over to the Manhattan, in New 

"For the latter, yes; for Covent Garden, no." 
Then he went on. "In order that the pro- 
cedure, and the difficulties one encounters be- 
fore full-fledged consideration is to be had from 
those controlling Covent Gardent, I will explain 
how the authority was divided. 

"There was and still is a board of di- 
rectors, with a chairman, which exercised a su- 
pervising control over the policy and adminis- 
tration. This board, similar to that of the New 
York Metropolitan Opera House, had a personnel 
of wealthy and prominent men; gentlemen who 
figured in important affairs of finance, the arts, 
politics and society. 'Harry' V. Higgins was 
chairman of the board, and to him the heads of 
the various departments (I believe we may call 
them that) reported and from him took their 

"The operating side of Covent Garden ran in 


a dual way. There was the business end, and 
the artistic. Neil Forsyth, who later became one 
of my dear friends, was business manager of Co- 
vent Garden, and he had an assistant and numer- 
ous aides. Percy Pitt served as a sort of ad- 
viser in the choice of repertoire, conductors and 
artists, and occasionally elected to conduct a per- 
formance. He was, in a way, the link between 
the artistic and business parts of the organiza- 
tion ; the man upon whose judgment and recom- 
mendations Mr. Higgins and his co-directors of 
the board largely relied. 

"An unknown singer, seeking consideration of 
Covent Garden authorities, often failed to secure 
their attention. Some assistant conductor 
would be delegated to hear the candidate, to de- 
termine whether it was worth while for Mr. Pitt 
to hear him, or to have Mr. Pitt and several of 
the conductors assemble in a sort of pretentious 

"The second time I tried for Covent Garden 
the audition took place in Bechstein Hall, where 
Percy Pitt and several others heard me; but for- 
tune did not then smile on me. 

'Twas rather blue to get this setback on top of 
Campanini's verdict. Among other things he 



and Pitt feared was that my voice was not robust 
enough for opera particularly that given in 
Covent Garden. Yet I was not willing to con- 
sider the matter settled. It was discouraging, I 
admit; still a hope continued to beat within 


For a few hundred yards McCormack and I 
trudged along the cement road leading towards 
his summer home, he thinking, doubtless, of that 
earlier summer when his efforts had enlisted so 
little response. 

"But," said McCormack, increasing his stride 
after glancing at his watch and noting that we 
should have to hurry to reach Rocklea at the 
breakfast hour, "something important happened 
soon after. Sir John apparently had held the 
Covent Garden idea, just as I had, though he had 
also kept it to himself. He broached the mat- 
ter one late afternoon, while I was having tea 
with him, and informed me he had arranged that 
I should sing for Percy Pitt and his associates, 
in a few days, in Covent Garden. 

"Pitt was a splendid musician, he had been 
for many years accompanist at Arthur Boosey's 
Ballad Concerts, and his word was relied on im- 
plicitly by 'Harry' Higgins, and the other direct- 



ors of Covent Garden. Once more, for the third 
time, I got ready for an audition., and the im- 
portance of this one rather told on my nerves. 
It isn't easy, you may believe, to undertake a 
musical recovery after having previously failed 
to impress. Then, I was not unaware that if 
Pitt approved me Campanini might interfere. 
But it was all in a lifetime, and I summoned 
courage and went to Covent Garden. 

"The director was sitting nonchalantly in an 
orchestra-chair with others who were to hear me 
gathered about. Pitt greeted me and wasted no 
time in asking me to proceed. 

"To the stage I went, somewhat apprehen- 
sive of the outcome, yet not over-nervous. Cam- 
panini's and Pitt's words kept returning to my 
mind. These thoughts, and my own determina- 
tion to make as much as I could of this oppor- 
tunity, conflicted; but I let them fight it out, 
gradually steadied myself and signalling the ac- 
companist that I was ready I faced my critical 

f 'Che Gelida Martina' went fairly well. 

When I had finished I requested the accompan- 

~ist to begin the 'Carmen Flower Song.' You 

see, I was anxious to do enough to give Pitt as 



complete an idea as one can obtain through a 
single hearing of a singer of the extent of my 
voice and style. Once well into the aria I lost 
myself, almost completely, to externals, and in 
this second number I felt that I was achieving 
a creditable mark. 

"The 'Flower Song' is not easy for the singer. 
Though often badly done in opera, it is a com- 
position wherein the artist may disclose qualities 
of superiority in the smoothness of tone, canti- 
lena, warmth of style and dramatic vigor. Well 
done it always commands admiration, and the 
singer who thus interprets it gains admiration, 

"I finished the high B-flat, and the closing 
phrase that comes immediately after, with a pe- 
culiar sensation. It is odd," mused John, "how 
one gets a premonition sometimes. I've said 
that I'm rather psychic. I appeared to be that 
day. I could almost have anticipated what the 
verdict would be, and as I put away the opera 
scores in my music-portfolio I was prepared for 
a favorable decision. 

"It wasn't easy to assume a calm manner as 
I approached Pitt and his associates, who were 
seated in the body of the auditorium. But I 



stood, waiting for Pitt's words, with my heart 
pounding violently. 

Pitt told me they would advise me of the di- 
rectors' decision, and I went away. Later that 
day a 'phone message called me to Covent 

'We have decided,' he said, 'to engage you 
if fifteen pounds a week will be sufficient.' 

"I didn't tell him so, but I would have sung 
for nothing. I only answered, 'I thank you, 
very much. If I once get into Covent Garden 
you will never get me out.' 

"I didn't mean it to sound boastful; I was in 
no such mood. I only believed, in those con- 
ditions which prevailed in this wonderful opera 
house, that I could satisfy, and continue to do 
so for a long time. Pitt grasped my meaning, 
I'm sure, for he smiled at my words, and in- 
formed me that he would have the contract pre- 
pared for me to sign, and asked me to return 
the following day." 

We passed through the gate at Rocklea, and 
on up the graveled walk to the house, just as the 
faint sounding of the gong announcing breakfast 
reached our ears. 




John felt like fishing that morning. After 
his swim and a frolic with his Belgian police dog, 
Nellie, he announced to Mrs. McCormack that 
the mood was on him. "Big fellows," declared 
John, "which give one a tussle." 

Cyril and Gwen shared their father's fishing 
desires and scurried off to get into their rubber- 
boots preparatory to the jaunt to the beach to 
dig the requisite clams for bait. 

But Mrs. McCormack had Red Cross duties 
to perform and they could not wait. So she and 
her sister, Miss Foley, left us to our luck, which 
turned out to be rather good. 

Wilkinson got the dory ready, and by that 
time Gwen and Cyril appeared, carrying between 
them a large pail generously filled with the lure 
for our finny game. 

"It's odd," mused John, as he stood at the 
wheel of the Rocklea, "what the possession of that 



Covent Garden contract did for me. It was 
recognition, after repeated efforts to gain it, and 
my confidence in myself became surer. For two 
days I was so filled with the joy of possession of 
the long-coveted document that I wasn't able 
to do much save to think about it. You see, I 
was impressionable, and rather young, which 
explains my state of mind." 

Back of us, in the dory, Cyril and Gwen were 
singing; in unison, their soprano voices rising 
higher and higher. John stopped talking, and 
half turned, to listen. "They scarcely ever 
stop," he remarked, which was the truth. 
From personal knowledge I am aware that they 
sing at least five hours in every twenty- four ; and 
every sort of music which the voice may give 
forth. This morning they engaged in competi- 
tion to see which could sustain the longer 
phrase, and each would fill the lungs to the limit 
and hold on to the tone as though life depended 
on the test. Then Gwen, whose voice is agile, 
loosed scales and turns and trills until the air 
resounded with her warbling. And Cyril, scorn- 
ing that character of vocal feat, gave himself (in 
the midst of his sister's singing) to altitudinous 
notes. It was an Ellen Beach Yaw effect. 



"I never stop them," explained John ; nor do 
I blame him. For their voices are sympathetic 
and true. Nor should it occasion surprise if, 
one day, Gwendolyn McCormack developed into 
a distinguished coloratura soprano, perhaps an- 
other Galli-Curci. 

When I spoke of this to John he imparted to 
me this particular piece of information. 

"You are absolutely correct about Gwen's 
coloratura soprano tendencies. When Mme. 
Galli-Curci first heard her she was singing 
much as you just heard her sing that great 
artist said to me: 'It would not in the least 
surprise me if Gwenny one day became a second 
Galli-Curci. (What a wonderful artist and 
charming body she is!) 

"She really meant what she said. Mme. 
Galli-Curci does not go out of her way, for cour- 
tesy's sake, to say nice things especially if they 
might fall into the category of exaggeration. 
Nor is it remarkable that Gwen and Cyril should 
sing as they do (apart from their having what I 
believe anyone will recognize as exceptional nat- 
ural voices), because they have heard the best 
music, always, about the house. Their taste has 
therefore been unconsciously formed for musical 



masterpieces. The morning Mme. Galli-Curci 
heard them singing the Bach double-concerto she 
was actually astonished. Yet there is nothing 
about their having sung that composition which 
occasions surprise among those of us in the fam- 
ily, though I'll admit it is uncommon. Still, 
they had heard it so often from the Victor phono- 
graph record as played by Kreisler and Zimbalist 
that it had sunk deep into their memories. And 
I want to say here, that I consider the educa- 
tional value of what is being done by the Victor 
Talking Machine Company to be without com- 
parison. What wouldn't I give to have records 
of Mario and the other great artists of early days 
as the Victor Company could make them ! 

The tenor forsook the subject of his children's 
musical and vocal qualifications, after those last 
words. Shortly afterward he got back again to 
Co vent Garden. 

"I made my debut there in October, on the 
fifteenth, Nineteen Hundred Seven. It is a fact 
that I have sung there each successive season 
since, up to Nineteen Fourteen, when the war 
broke out. And I have a contract calling for 
the next season Covent Garden gives which I 
hope will open with a gala performance in honor 


Gwendolyn and Cyril McCormack 


of the Allies' victory and which I pray, for the 
sake of humanity, will be soon. To complete 
the record it is pertinent, no doubt, to state that 
my remuneration has increased rather consider- 

"There is an old saying that 'it never rains 
but it pours,' which is applicable to that par- 
ticular summer. Before I got away to go to 
Mrs. McCormack and Cyril in Dublin, and 
to visit my father and mother and sisters and 
brother, in Athlone, negotiations were com- 
menced to appear in the tour of Harrison Con- 
certs, an important series given throughout Eng- 
land and Scotland, and the contract signed (at 
a good figure) before I left London. 

"But with all this good fortune, which seemed 
heaping into my lap, I seemed to cleave more 
than ever to my old friends. I've been that way, 
and shall not change. Sammy Liddle, one of 
the finest accompanists living, saw much of me, 
when he sat wading through manuscript music 
in the little room of his in Arthur Boosey's 
place. I spent considerable time with him 
every day, that year and in others that followed. 
Going through much new music even though 
a deal of it was admittedly bad music did me 



no harm. Sammy would play, and I would hum 
through those manuscripts; and occasionally we 
would discover a promising ballad, which would 
be published and have its sale. Many of these 
I, of course, subsequently sang at a Boosey 

"I recollect one day the manuscripts were all 
very bad. Nothing amongst those which we ran 
through either of us could consider. One after 
another they were tossed aside, impossible. 
'Hopeless,' said Sammy, making a wry face as 
he looked up at me. 'Oh, for just one fairly 
respectable piece of music!' That gave me a 

' 'Here, Sammy,' I remarked, taking a folded 
piece of manuscript from my pocket, 'is some- 
thing we might try; play it.' He put the paper 
on the music rack, straightened the folds and as 
he played I sang the words and music. 

6 'Not a bad idea,' admitted Sammy, 'and I 
rather like that pianissimo high A-natural at the 
end.' We repeated the song, and once more 
Liddle had an encouraging word to say for it. 
Arthur Boosey, who had listened, remarked, 'I 
don't think much of it.' 'Well,' I informed him, 
'Charlie Marshall wrote the music and John 



Bardsley took it to Willie Boosey, who couldn't 
see enough in the song to accept it. But if you 
recommend it for publication I'll sing it at the 
first ballad concert in the fall.' That settled the 
matter, because Boosey would publish anything 
I thought well enough of to sing publicly and the 
song was prepared for the audiences. And I did 
sing it, several weeks later. 

"The name of that song is 'I Hear You Calling 
Me,' and next to 'The Holy City' it has sold more 
copies than any other piece of music ever 

John steered the Rocklea past the New York 
Police Department yacht, which lay at anchor 
about a mile and a half off Rocklea, and a short 
distance beyond where one of the several fishing- 
grounds thereabouts lay. We dropped the an- 
chor and got out our poles. But Cyril had for- 
gotten to bring enough sinkers, and there was 
a panic. How would we get our hooks to the 
bottom? Wilkinson and Cyril who has a me- 
chanical turn and is forever puttering about ma- 
chinery got their inventive minds busy, and 
Gwen finally found herself using a drop line with 
a wrench for a sinker. 

"We sought other quarters in the fall," John 


went on later as we were homeward bound, "when 
Mrs. McCormack, Baby Cyril and I reached Lon- 
don. Six months had brought a change in our 
financial status; we had some butter, then, for 
our bread and an occasional piece of cake. It 
was a relief, although I find an odd pleasure in 
reflecting upon the hardships of my student and 
early professional career. There were many 
happy days in them. 

"The main business, you may be sure, was pre- 
paring for the opera debut. There could be no 
half-way measures here; Covent Garden audi- 
ences knew the best, were accustomed to it and 
countenanced no other. Allowances, I judged, 
would be made for a newcomer of twenty-three; 
still he would have to attain a definite standard, 
in voice and art to succeed. Which I meant, 
if it lay within me, to do." 

John threw over the wheel hard a-port, and 
the Rocklea circled a stake marking the shallow 
channel and went off into deeper water. 

"There were numerous rehearsals, and every 
one was kindness itself. I'll not forget that, be- 
cause those first rehearsals mean so much to a 
young artist. The opera for my debut was 'Cav- 
alleria Rusticana,' in which I knew the notes and 



words backwards. Every bit of action and stage 
business I had memorized until, I think, I could 
have done the entire role in a trance. I wanted 
it that way, for in an emergency the memory, 
thoroughly charged, will often act mechanically 
and carry one through a danger-spot to safety. 

"The night of nights and it was all that 
came at last. It was a fine night, and clear, 
which I took as a favorable omen. I had a 
light supper at half-past three, at Sir John Mur- 
ray Scott's, and he sent me to the theatre in his 
brougham. Six o'clock found me in my dress- 
ing-room at Covent Garden. 'Cavalleria Rus- 
ticana' preceded the second part of the double-bill 
which consisted, as it usually does when the 
Mascagni work is performed, of 'I Pagliacci.' 
So I was made up and ready for the stage before 
the tenor arrived who was to appear in the latter 

"He was not sympathetic; self-sufficient and 
with no kind word for a beginner. And of all 
the principals cast that night he, alone, said 
nothing to stiffen my spine. But one of the 
artists helped enough to make up for his surli- 
ness; a courteous chap, with the milk of human 
kindness in his heart. It is strange what little 



things one remembers ! I was feeling badly. I 
saw him poking his head in at my doorway, at 
my invitation to enter, after his knock. 

' 'My name is Sammarco,' said the stranger, 
'and I have come to wish you good luck.' He 
said some other things, too, but the words wish- 
ing me luck stuck in my memory. Good old 
Sammarco and he isn't so old, either he's as 
fine a man as he is artist. And ever the friend. 

"He went away then, and the unsympathetic 
tenor (we shared the same dressing-room) came 
back to get ready for his work. So I went out- 
side, for the curtain was not far off." 

"And were you nervous?" I asked. 

"I was so nervous," replied McCormack, "that 
I ceased to be nervous. I guess the nerves, for 
that evening, were thoroughly burned out. In 
the wings I met Borghild Bryhn, who was to sing 
Santuzza, and Angelo Scandiani, the baritone. 
Also Maestro Panizza, the conductor. The time 
was close and ... I was ready. 

"How thankful I was, standing there, for my 
brief operatic experience in Italy; the Savona 
and Santa Croce appearances. At least I knew 
how to move on the stage, and I kept repeating 
over and over the warning of Sabatini's bari- 



tone friend, Felici, about my semaphorian arms. 
I shouldn't appear ridiculous, that was sure ; and 
if my voice responded well, I'd take my 

"Anyway, I should have a chance to warm 
up before going out to face the thousands there 
in front; the men and women who were to say 
'yes' or 'no' to my maiden effort. The serenade, 
which Turridu sings behind the curtain before 
it is raised, would give me that chance. And 
presently it came. I got the signal, the harpist 
began the introduction and I set myself." 

John stopped at that climacteric point to 
maneuver the dory into its berth between two 
rowboats moored just to one side of the float, 
which gave us small entering space. I watched 
him standing before the wheel, his legs well 
spread and firm in his white flannel trousers and 
two massive arms showing above the wheel. He 
looked the fighter, and a clean one, who doesn't 
quit under fire. 

Wilkinson made the Rocklea fast, and we clam- 
bered ashore. On the way up Cyril and Gwen 
were hurrying ahead McCormack finished the 

"For a second, possibly only half a second," 


he confessed, "I thought I'd die. I stood look- 
ing at the harpist, with my mouth as parched as 
though I'd been footing it through a desert. 
Then to myself I said, 'Old boy, you've got to!' 

"It was while I was singing the serenade that 
Mrs. McCormack, Miss Foley and the others of 
the party entered the box. Mrs. McCormack 
told me, long afterwards, that it was an ordeal 
she could scarcely endure. 

"The rest of it was easy enough, as debuts go. 
I guess I'd suffered until there was nothing left 
in me to suffer. For the serenade to Lola went 
fairly well so the people and management 
thought, and the music critics, who wrote about 
the performance for the papers of next day. I 
had steadied before having sung a dozen meas- 
ures of the serenade, so that when I made my en- 
trance I was as cold as ice. Nor do I exagger- 
ate ; I mean just that ... as cold as ice. 

"But the tribute which I thought most about, 
and the one that I can never feel enough grati- 
tude for, was the actions of my singer-colleagues 
who attended that performance. To my per- 
sonal knowledge, many of them sacrificed pay- 
ing engagements besides buying places for the 



opera which had been accepted for that same 

"A sort of free-masonry among many of the 
singers existed, then, in London, and these 
'pals' of mine they were that, in the best sense 
of that term were generous enough to forget 
any pecuniary advantages to themselves to show 
their good will toward me, and to want to be in 
Govent Garden when I was making the debut. 

"No less a person than Neil Forsyth, business 
manager of Covent Garden, said to me: 'Mc- 
Cormack you did splendidly and what a wonder- 
ful reception you got ! One would have thought 
you were an actor-manager!' 

"Everything, that night, seemed magnified. 
I saw with a clarity of vision which, I presume, 
was due to the highly sensitized condition of my 
nerves; and my hearing was the same. I an- 
ticipated all that was to come: every musical 
phrase and word, long before its proper mo- 
ment, and every action the role demands and 
each gesture. 

"That's about all. In less than an hour and 
a quarter it was all over. They told me, in 
my dressing-room, that I had won. I was rather 



tired; but happy. I cleaned the grease paint 
from my face and got into my street clothes, and 
with Mrs. McCormack and Miss Foley went 
home. And that night I slept." 




Business matters having called me to New 
York I did not see McCormack again for several 
days. It was an afternoon, in late July, when 
I descended from an express train at Stamford 
station; the third day of Nineteen Eighteen's 
first hot spell on the upper Atlantic seaboard. 
I chartered a "flivver" and away we darted, to- 
ward Noroton and Rocklea, some eight miles off. 
. John was seated, alone, on the veranda when 
I arrived, looking cool and unperturbed in tennis 
garb. "So there you are!" he said, by way of 
greeting. "What made you pick out this par- 
ticular day to come out?" he demanded. "I 
don't feel like working." 

"I'm sorry, John," I replied, "but there's 
much copy to be gone over before we mail it to 
the publisher. But if you're feeling lazy sup- 
pose I run back to town." 

"You'll do nothing of the kind," he rejoined, 


with that note in his voice which one always 
hears there when he fears he may unintentionally 
have hurt another's feelings. One must travel 
far to find a softer heart than John McCormack's 
or any so generous. 

"All right," he commanded, with assumed 
gruffness, "get out the manuscript." This I 
did, and he was soon deep in the reading of it, 
lying back in a huge porch-chair, the picture of 
a student at work. From time to time, with his 
pencil, he made corrections: changing whole sen- 
tences, rearranging others, adding here a word 
and, there, striking one out. At other points he 
suggested the introduction of new material, 
which I noted on paper. Oh, yes! John Mc- 
Cormack is more than singer. He wasn't made 
Doctor of Literature by Holy Cross College, in 
Nineteen Seventeen, on the strength of his voice 

Two hours of this and the task was finished. 
And by that time John was in the mood for more 

"We left off, the other night, at the Co vent 
Garden debut didn't we?" He lapsed into 
silence for a few moments, then continued. 

"It's a wonderful feeling that success brings, 


when you've worked for it. And rather grati- 
fying to be able to read about it, in the news- 
papers. That's what I did, the morning after I 
'debuted' at Co vent Garden. The critics were 
most kind. They shared the view that I had 
'arrived,' and expressed an interest in what my 
future efforts should bring forth. 

"Do you grasp that? It's the secret of an 
artist's forward movement towards the ultimate 
goal: 'So far so good, but what of the mor- 
row?' One cannot rest, no matter how fine the 
achievement. Good, better, best and after 
that 'best' something still more, that's beyond. 
There is no stopping-place in art. For the more 
one does the more people expect. There is no 
rest for whoever is conscientious; if the critics 
and public become momentarily satisfied the 
artist should not be. So we go on, occasionally 
content, but never for more than the briefest 
possible time. 

"And when one reaches the top rung in the 
ladder the task to remain there is harder, much, 
than the climb. The slightest jostle destroys 
the balance. No! The life of a singer, if he 
(or she) is admitted into the sacred portals, is 
not easy though some folks mistakenly fancy 



that it is. You've got to live up to what the 
people feel you are as an artist. 

"Mrs. McCormack and I read carefully the 
reviews of my previous evening's performance 
and then discussed our own opinions. We in- 
variably do that. Praise is pleasant to hear or 
read, but it never helps one to progress. Criti- 
cism does that; the kind of criticism I call con- 
structive which builds up, and never tears 
down. After breakfast I went out for a walk, 
and to reflect. 

"As I have just said, getting to a desired ar- 
tistic place is difficult enough, but it is staying 
there that is the rub. And I had felt that once 
accepted by a Covent Garden audience I could 
retain, for as long as I maintained my skill, the 
good will of each audience. This was the mat- 
ter of chiefest concern, just then. The second 
and third and fourth appearances would decide. 
I therefore gave myself to their consideration. 

"My second Covent Garden role was The 
Duke, in 'Rigoletto,' which was to be performed 
with a cast including Luisa Tetrazzini, then the 
rage of London, as Gilda, and Sammarco in the 
character of Rigoletto. This work of Verdi's, 
which demands that the tenor be able truly 



to sing, was different from Mascagni's. I 
had heard Mme. Tetrazzini for the first time in 
my life only a few weeks before (it was her first 
Covent Garden season) and the opportunity 
which brought me as her associate in the lead- 
ing tenor role of an opera was enough to stir 
me, if nothing else had. Her kindness to me 
cannot be overestimated, and several times that 
night she would encourage me with a word or 
two, just as Sammarco did, when he was near. 
I was warmly applauded after the Duke's famous 
aria, La Donna e Mobile, and my portion of the 
quartette, which had to be repeated, elicited 
favorable comment. Tetrazzini sang superbly, 
and Sammarco's Rigoletto (which I consider 
magnificent), was almost incomparable. 

"I was far less nervous throughout this per- 
formance than during the 'Cavalleria Rusticana.' 
Its music was my sort of music, peculiarly suited 
to my voice and methods, and my acceptance 
brought me greater satisfaction than anything 
else I had done. It seemed, too, to remove the 
last vestige of lurking doubt within me. I might 
vary in the quality of my endeavors, but I was 
certain, at last, of my capacities. The future 
lay with me, wholly. 



"Self -confidence (by which I do not mean ego- 
tism) I had now acquired, and I found myself 
facing each audience with greater assurance and 
acquitting myself with an increased freedom. 
So when the third opera I was asked to sing 
that season 'Don Giovanni' arrived I was per- 
fectly secure. The role was Don Ottavio. Of 
all composers Mozart made greatest demands for 
pure singing upon the artist, but what a joy it is 
to sing him! He cannot evade the issue, and 
woe betide the one who has no cantilena or ele- 
gance of style. Mario Sammarco, the baritone 
who had befriended me at my debut, was cast for 
the Giovanni (a role in which I have always been 
sorry that New York never got a chance to hear 
him), Lolla Miranda was the Zerlina, and Fely 
Litvinna had been chosen for Donna Anna. The 
third opera out of the way, I breathed with com- 
parative ease once more and said a silent prayer 
of thanksgiving. 

"Cyril was growing fast and Mrs. McCormack 
looked a girl of eighteen. She made a home for 
us and gave me something worth working for. 
Do you wonder that I was able to sing? I was in 
a jubilant mood constantly, at work or at play, 
and the weeks leaped on, bringing fresh experi- 



ences and carrying my name throughout the land. 

"My operatic work was, naturally, the most 
important, but I had plenty to do besides. The 
Arthur Boosey Ballad Concerts began again in 
the fall of Nineteen Seven and in each of these 
I sang, with steady appreciation of the audiences. 
Other concert engagements came to me, also, and 
at length the visits, on the Harrison programmes, 
to Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Manchester, 
and other cities. I have often wondered why 
some cities in Ireland were not included in the 

"It was some time thereabouts, that the se- 
quel occurred to my experience with 'Alphabet' 
Malone, of Daly's Theatre. George Edwardes 
was in tenor difficulties again, and bemoaning the 
scarcity of one who could both sing and act when 
my friend, Gordon Cleather, who had taken me 
to Malone, some months before, happened in. 
; 'If I could only get the man I want,' sighed 

" 'Too bad,' sympathized Cleather. 'I 
brought you just the chap, but Malone couldn't 
see him.' 

"Whereupon Edwardes, instantly alert, re- 
plied: 'Get him for me.' 



' 'Sorry,' answered my friend languidly, 'but 
he's singing with Tetrazzini in 'Rigoletto' at Co- 
vent Garden to-night.' 

"It was not long after that incident that I met 
George Edwardes, with whom I finally became 
intimately acquainted. Speaking one day of the 
amusing refusal of Malone to engage me Ed- 
wardes verified Cleather's story and said: 'Had 
I heard you at that time, John, I'd have been will- 
ing to sign a ten-years' contract with you.' 

"Perhaps it is just as well that we didn't meet. 
It may have been another of Destiny's moves to 
guide me in the direction I was intended to go. 
For had I appeared at Daly's my entire career 
might have veered off in another direction. 

"I was going along rather fast during that 
season. I studied with all diligence and omitted 
nothing which might strengthen my resources. 
There is everything in getting a good start, and 
I resolved, while people were talking about me, 
to profit by all that offered. My youth, and my 
sudden rise from obscurity into Covent Garden 
and concert popularity in a few months, were 
topics of conversation. There were pessimists, 
who hinted that I might not last, but their small- 
ness did no harm. 



"My fairy-godfather, Sir John Murray Scott, 
was happy over what had come to me. 'There 
are bigger things ahead for you, my boy,' he 
would say to me, 'so neglect nothing; prepare 
for them.' His influence helped me incalcu- 
lably, and the example he himself set. It meant 
something just to be near him and hear him talk, 
not alone on music, which he thoroughly knew 
in all its branches and history, but on the kin- 
dred arts and on politics, science, philosophy, 
finance and travel. He was what I would call 
a well-informed man, one well-traveled, who re- 

"It was no commonplace task to satisfy such 
a man, and I was content only when I felt that 
I was near to, if not completely, satisfying him. 
Sir John believed in shooting at a high-hung star, 
and drilled into me that idea. But for all his 
task-mastership he wielded no iron hand. His 
way was to lead rather than to drive ; and it was 
also his way, after patient observation of a pro- 
tege, to drop him if he showed an unwillingness 
to respond. That was all. He 'sized' a man, 
to use a colloquialism, lightning fast and gave 
him a fair chance but no more than that. And 
the gentleman, unvaryingly; it was inborn. 



"So, you see, I had my advantages." 

Two small dogs drew near: one a sable-coated 
Pekinese of aristocratic mien, the other white 
and woolly with a waggish air. I should call 
him a John T. McCutcheon dog, for he was that 
sort; he answered to the name Towser. Go-Go, 
the Peke, stopped a few feet short of McCor- 
mack and disdainfully sniffed the air. 

"A queer pup," confided John, "whose friends 
are mostly of the kitchen. But Towser, here, is 
a pal." And the woolly pup wagged his roguish 
tail at this, and emitted a short bark. They 
were off, directly, to their play, and the tenor 
went on with his talk. 

"The Harrison concerts were interesting that 
year," he said, "and broadened my acquaintance 
with audiences. It allowed me to see something 
of other cities and the experience helped. In- 
cidentally, my repertoire grew steadily and my 
musical knowledge, for besides studying I lost no 
opportunity to hear as much good music as I 
could, especially that for the orchestra. And 
another thing: I fussed a little at the piano. 
For I realized that some day I should need musi- 
cianship which few singers appear to feel they 
care to acquire. 



"Naturally, I met many people ... in all 
walks of life. I liked that for I suppose I am 
what Americans call 'a mixer.' Apart from the 
interest one finds in new acquaintances a friend 
or two occasionally grows from them ; and, then, 
it sharpens the wits. Yes, the study of human 
nature is an absorbing thing. 

"When spring came, in Nineteen Eight, I be- 
gan to want a home we should own, one wherein 
Mrs. McCormack and I might feel a sense of 
proprietorship. It was right, too, that we take 
our place of residence in a community befitting 
my enhanced position and amongst those whom 
I now met with some frequency. 

"We found, at last, the very place that suited 
us. It was in Hampstead, where the fresh air 
was just what Cyril needed, and with plenty of 
foliage about. And when Gwen was born, July 
21, 1908 (like Cyril, in Dublin), we had a home 
of our own, and I considered myself a fortunate 





"To him that hath" (or as McCormack's 
brother-in-law, Tom Bissette, would say, "Much 
wants more") never was more fully exemplified 
than in the case of John McCormack. One suc- 
cess appeared to beget another, and the tenor's 
following increased steadily and his friendships 
and acquaintances, too. 

The fall of Nineteen Eight found him busier 
than ever, with an abundance of concerts and 
his second Covent Garden season looming near. 
John was twenty-four, an accepted artist with a 
widening road showing ahead. 

Still, he had yet a singing honor which, 
strangely enough, had not offered. Vocally and 
musically one of the most admirably equipped 
of any tenor singing oratorio, he had never ap- 
peared in a festival. It was one of those unex- 
plainable circumstances which he has confessed 
his inability to fathom. 



"There was enough, however, in other chan- 
nels to occupy me as fully as my time allowed. 
So I gave the matter no concern. Yet that part 
of my career is peculiarly blank. Gervaise 
Elwes, one of the few intellectual tenors in the 
oratorio field, and the finest interpreter of that 
difficult music which Sir Edward Elgar wrote 
in 'The Dream of Gerontius' for tenor, was one 
of the foremost artists at that time. Another 
was John Coates, with a splendid oratorio style. 

"I began my Nineteen-Eight and Nine sea- 
son with a voice that was gaining in power 
and, people said, in quality. I was invariably 
careful to keep within the limits of my voice, for 
I always have felt that no tone is proper to sing 
that carries a power which mars its quality. In 
other words, when, to secure power, the natural 
beauty of the tone suffers that tone is not right. 
I have tried to keep to that rule, and when a 
friend once asked me why I did not give 'more 
voice' (he was a singer) I replied that I would 
be singing for years after he had finished his 
career. My words have since proved correct. 

"No, there is nothing in the so-called 'big' 
tone. To make a noise for sake of inducing ap- 
plause is not singing, and certainly far removed 



from artistry. I could cite numerous instances, 
were I so minded, to demonstrate my contention. 
Something held in reserve should be the unde- 
viating custom of every singer, not alone be- 
cause it imparts to the voice the most agreeable 
quality possible, but likewise for the longevity 
of the instrument. 

"The shouter may cause a tremendous fuss 
among certain adherents of the high note long 
held, but what is the ultimate cost? A ruined 
voice often, years before its usefulness should 
have waned. Nor are young singers the only 
ones who should respect this indisputable fact. 
We have instances, of annual occurrence, of sing- 
ers especially those of the opera who have 
more natural voice than knowledge of its correct 
use who fade within a few seasons, and fall mis- 

"I was fortunate in discovering all this at the 
outset of my career. Sabatini preached this 
vocal gospel. Sir John Murray Scott also em- 
phasized it. Other valued counselors agreed 
that such a course was the wise one. So I ad- 
hered to my custom, and to-day my voice is, I 
think, better than ever, and should continue to 
improve until the day I decide I shall retire 



which, by the way, I shall do while I am at the 
top of my powers, in voice as well as in my in- 
terpretative resources. 

"My second Covent Garden season witnessed 
strides in the desired direction. I had added to 
my repertoire, and was called on to appear in 
the three roles I had first learned, and several 
more besides. At the close of my fourth year I 
had sung Turiddu, The Duke, Don Ottavio and 
the principal tenor roles in 'La Boheme,' 'Ma- 
dama Butterfly,' 'La Tosca,' 'La Traviata,' 'Lucia 
di Lammermoor,' 'Lakme,' 'Faust,' 'Romeo and 
Juliet' and 'The Pearl Fishers.' 

"One does not gain freedom of stage routine 
in a few performances. The easy actor, in opera, 
is not too often encountered. It is a difficult 
matter which many do not know because their 
intimacy with the opera singing is limited to 
provide an adequate dramatic impersonation of 
a role while singing it. And the cause is due 
largely to the lack of what I will call synchroniza- 
tion between music and text; the pauses in the 
connective of phrases which destroy the possi- 
bility of logical dramatic continuity and fre- 
quently place an artist in passivity when the ac- 
tion should not be arrested. 



"To surmount such obstacles which is less 
difficult in some operas than in others requires 
long and arduous training before the public, and 
a talent to combine acting with singing. 'Oper- 
atic' gestures do not, as the expert knows, consti- 
tute dramatic action, and never will. To mould 
characterization of a role with its musical side 
is an art, a many-sided one, and has few masters. 
I strove to acquire it, but it came slowly espe- 
cially in that second year, when music had, of 
course, to be the main thing. 

"But I got on." 

"I began meeting, more and more, beginning 
with the season of Nineteen Eight and Nine, peo- 
ple who were personalities. It was then that I 
was presented to the late King Edward and Queen 
Alexandra, all the other members of the Royal 
Family and (then and later) met numerous 
sovereigns of other countries, princes and prin- 
cesses, persons of the nobility and diplomatic 
corps and army and navy attaches. 

"I have never, for some cause, experienced 
for great folk any particular sense of awe; and 
while I welcomed my opportunity it did not set 
my head awhirl. They were sovereigns for 
whom I entertained respect; the Queen, espe- 



cially, being a personage I had long wanted to 
meet. And it's odd, too, how that desire ap- 
peared to have some basis in what was subse- 
quently realized. For it was to be my good for- 
tune to see the womanly side of Queen Alexan- 
dra, and to discover some of those qualities which 
have endeared her to her people. 

"She was, as most of us know, quite hard of 
hearing. Yet she did not (at least at that time) 
make use of mechanical devices which accentu- 
ate a weakened hearing sense. I recall being 
presented to Queen Alexandra in the drawing- 
room of the town house of Lady de Grey, March- 
ioness of Ripon, one afternoon in the winter of 
Nineteen Eight. I remember, as though it hap- 
pened only yesterday, the entire affair, which was 
one of the many for which Lady de Grey was 
noted and which no other hostess in London 

"With her attendants-in- waiting, Queen Alex- 
andra received me; seated, and with a smile. 
One hears the word 'graciousness' sometimes ap- 
plied to a manner, but too often misapplied. 
Here, however, was an instance where it per- 
fectly fitted, for the Queen was gracious in the 
fullest degree; the aristocrat personified. And 



yet by no word or gesture or mannerism did she 
seek to impress upon one her rank and position. 
I think it was that 'to-the-manner-born' air, right- 
fully hers, which she so gently wore which drew 
me to her. She could not be other than the 
gentlewoman she was, God bless her ! 

"By inclination I am democratic. It is, to 
my way of thinking, what one is and does that 
truly counts. But I admire simplicity in those 
in high places ; and the bigger one is the simpler 
that person should be. Queen Alexandra was 
such a woman, and it became her. 

"When it came my turn I sang as I had seldom 
sung, up to that time. The song was 'I Hear You 
Calling Me.' Of course I was curious to hear 
what she would say, and how. It would be some- 
thing complimentary that much I knew but 
I was scarcely prepared for her particular words. 
; 'I go often to Albert Hall, and even when the 
band plays double- forte., I scarcely hear,' she said, 
with a smile that struck me as wistful, though 
uncomplaining. 'But ... I heard perfectly 
even that last pianissimo tone of yours.' 

"It was almost pathetic, and my eyes grew 
misty. Yet I managed to tell her how grateful 
I was at being able to sing so that she could hear 



everything. Just think of having to miss 
hearing all the beautiful music there is to hear 
because of such a physical misfortune. If I 
were to have to choose between deafness and loss 
of sight (please God it may never be either) I 
should rather be blind. 

"It was a distinguished assemblage at that 
musicale of Lady de Grey's ; large and composed 
of men and women who were leaders, in every 
walk of life that counted. They all were most 
attentive, too, when an artist was performing. 
Maggie Teyte, the soprano, and Gilibert, whose 
death a few years ago took away a true man as 
well as a great artist, and I provided the music 
on that occasion. Gilibert was incomparable in 
his interpretation of songs, and everyone knows 
Miss Teyte's skill. 

"That experience has always remained vividly 
in my memory. 

"There were others, at about that time," he 
continued, "and they had their interesting fea- 
tures. Some were out of the ordinary. All the 
while the weeks slipped by, and one evening, at 
Covent Garden, Mario Sammarco came to me. 
' 'Giovanni,' he said, 'what you do in March?' 
It was a pregnant question, and I asked my bari- 



tone friend what he meant by it. He explained 
that if I chose I might have an engagement to 
sing at the spring opera season to be given at 
the San Carlo, in Naples. 

"I was keen to go. Italy still remained an un- 
proved field for my abilities, and at that stage 
of my development I believed that if ever Italians 
would accept me this would be the time. The 
honorarium was satisfactory one thousand 
francs a performance so I accepted Sammarco's 

"On the way Mrs. McCormack and I stopped 
off at Milan, to see my old maestro, Sabatini. 
We were both overjoyed at meeting again, and 
Sabatini made a great fuss over Mrs. McCor- 
mack. After matters had quieted I took out my 
bill-fold. 'Let me see,' I said, 'two hundred 
francs (forty dollars), that was the amount for 
the last two months of tuition, wasn't it, maes- 
tro? 9 

"And what do you think Sabatini asked? 
... He wanted to know if I could conveniently 
spare it. 

"With his next breath he began berating me 
for sending him so many pupils. For, as it had 
happened, my tone-production had elicited in- 



quiries as to who my master had been, and when 
I recommended Sabatini and I did recom- 
mend him, you may be sure students flocked 
to his place. Incidentally, while we are on this 
matter, I once had the novel experience of being 
pointed to by a celebrated English teacher of 
voice as a perfect specimen of 'how best to sing.' 
'I did not show him,' said this man, 'but the way 
he sings is the right way.' 

"Before he would talk on the many matters 
of common interest to us both," laughed John, 
"Sabatini insisted I should have a lesson. 'The 
bad habits,' he said insinuatingly, 'I will see if 
you have formed them.' And for half an hour 
he stripped my voice bare. 

"Then he appeared satisfied. That I had 
gone on in the way he hoped I might go gave 
him inexpressible delight. One or two things 
he did not approve, and frankly said so. But 
when he had finished with me I gathered fresh 
confidence in myself; for the dangerous period in 
my vocal career had been safely passed, and I 
believed that a continuance of those same meth- 
ods would guard my tone-production in the fu- 

"Madame Sabatini came into the studio 


then, to play while I sang operatic arias the maes- 
tro insisted he must hear. He let me finish each 
one; then we would discuss it: Sabatini sug- 
gesting changes which I instantly recognized 
would add to their interpretative value. We 
had several hours of this, and I finished a wiser 
singer and a better one. 

"It is that way," explained the tenor, "that 
the artist is made. And the greatest, even at 
their zenith, have always some things to learn. 
For myself, I am never quite satisfied. My ar- 
tistic desire is invariably just beyond my reach; 
and no public applause or written critical opin- 
ion can compensate for what, in my heart, I 
know to be short of my goal. I know I can never 
reach the ideal I have set myself. 

"However," he exclaimed, "that is straying 
from the issue. 

"Mrs. McCormack and I reached Naples in 
good time, and went to the Excelsior Hotel, and 
from our windows had a clear view of Mt. Ve- 
suvius. I was fit, yet misgivings that I should 
not duplicate my Covent Garden success dis- 
turbed my quietude. I knew what Italians like 
in a tenor voice, and the kind of singing by which 
they measure an artist." 



"You didn't, as I recall." 

"Your memory serves you well," responded 
John. "There was no furore; no 'bis' calls or 
cries of 'bravo!' The Duke in 'Rigoletto' was 
the first role I sang. The impresario said I could 
not have done it better; a finished performance, 
he called it, in every respect. And I got ap- 
plause, oh, yes, I got that from those who rec- 
ognized singing when they heard it. What I 
didn't get was an ovation, which was the thing 
I had desired, above all else. 

"But there is something I must tell you 
about," he observed. "It was unique; the only 
experience of its kind in my career the hiring of 
a claque and subsidizing of music critics." 

"You did that?" 

"I did . . . and it cost me, for that San 
Carlo engagement, twelve hundred and fifty 

"Two hundred and fifty dollars! Why did 
you do it?" 

"Persuasion that it was the customary thing 
to do, and that refusal to follow precedent would 
injure my chances. I wanted success. I 
wanted a fair chance to win it; and I also felt 
justified in using all the factors which other sing- 



ers tenor singers had. I wished no undue 
advantage ; but I did wish an even break. Hav- 
ing that I knew I should have to be satisfied (so 
far as Italy was concerned) with my deserts. 

"It was the first time, and likewise the last, 
that I availed myself of what many opera singers 
regard as a 'privilege.' The hirelings compris- 
ing the claque probably did their work. And 
the newspapers spoke well of my singing. But 
I was displeased with the transaction 'dis- 
gusted' is, probably, the better word. For the 
system is insincere, to put it in the mildest term." 

McCormack touched upon a subject, when he 
brought up the claque, which has been widely 
discussed (in America, especially) for many 
years. New York, more than any other city, has 
felt its influence and opera patrons have voiced 
their protests openly and with vehemence. Dur- 
ing the last few seasons, newspapers have had 
objections to make to this unfortunate system 
which, as McCormack correctly says, is a men- 
ace to both artists and public. 

"But apart from the undesirable methods of 
some of these paid-to-make-applause agents, the 
very existence of such applause is an insult to an 
intelligent audience, and invariably an annoy- 



ance which should prompt any far-sighted im- 
presario to stop it at once. And any singer who 
hires a claque is either misled, quite ignorant 
of the unfortunate position thereby caused, or 
else so engrossed with ego as to be blind to the 
evil consequences. 

"The state of never knowing when one is do- 
ing well or ill, which is immediately created 
when a singer has a claque 'out in front,' should 
prompt the singer who believes in the claque to 
consider the matter. The competent and sin- 
cere singer needs no claque. The average au- 
dience is able to ascertain for itself the es- 
timate of an artist. Nor should anyone hold any 
delusion about fooling several thousand persons 
by injecting a brand of made-to-order applause 
in the hope of having it sound spontaneous. 

"Any claquer will unhesitatingly state that he 
can instantly 'spot' the claque at work; not only 
its precise location in an auditorium, but each 
location and how many claquers comprise each 
group. Audiences, who have now had experi- 
ence enough with this sort of thing, have also be- 
come expert in detecting this false applause. 

"So, if we analyze it, the claque is very evi- 
dently useless, in addition to being a nuisance, 



and defeats its purpose by drawing to the artist 
paying for it condemnation for employing such 
practice rather than the admiration which is de- 

"Finally, if an artist be serious and honest 
with himself, he will surely prefer to take his 
chances. With an acknowledged position his 
recognition is reasonably certain. And should 
the exception now and again occur why descend 
to the petty procedure of hiring a few rough- 
visaged persons with large hands to make a noise? 
Suppose, once in a season, the applause of an 
audience does not completely satisfy? What 
difference does it make, so long as the singer's 
artistic soul is pleased?" 

With everything McCormack has said I agree. 
So do thousands of others. And in the course of 
time the claque in America, anyway will be a 
thing of the past. 

"I wouldn't have missed the San Carlo en- 
gagement for what it brought for more than I 
can name. Before returning to London I had 
conferred upon me one of the great honors of my 
career; an honor bestowed personally by Pope 
Pius X, which I shall recount directly. 

"I felt tired when the San Carlo engage- 


ment came to an end, in April of Nineteen Hun- 
dred Nine. I had sung, besides the opening 
opera, in 'Traviata' and 'Rigoletto,' and ap- 
peared on the same stage with some excellent 
singers and my artistic resources were the better 
because of the experience. 

"It was early April when Mrs. McCormack and 
I departed for Rome with our friends, Mary 
Anderson, her husband, 'Tony' Navarro, and the 
two Misses Scott, sisters of Sir John, and his 
brother Walter, who made up our party." 




The children Cyril and Gwenny had gone 
to bed. Though eight-thirty o'clock in the eve- 
ning (according to the hour of daylight-saving 
plan then in vogue) it was sixty minutes earlier, 
by the sun; and that planet still hovered in the 
sky. A breeze blew up from the Sound to 
where Mrs. McCormack and I sat on the veranda. 

Miss Foley was busy elsewhere; John had 
matters of consequence which had called him to 
his writing-desk, and so Mrs. McCormack and I 
waited until the others should join us. 

I was pleased that it was so, for Mrs. Mc- 
Cormack usually silent as to her husband's 
achievements was disposed to speak about 

"I should like, almost better than anything I 
know," she said, "to have the public appreciate 
how earnest John is." She glanced over at me, 
and smiled almost longingly. So far as one 



might infer, Mrs. McCormack had everything her 
heart wished: a devoted husband, two children, 
the consciousness of honors well won, health for 
all near to her, and the goods of the world in 
abundance. It would have been a perfectly nat- 
ural assumption to regard John's position as 
made; his earnestness with respect to his art 
something to be taken for granted. Yet that 
wish it interested one. 

"What makes you question such a thing? 
Have you forgotten his Boston Symphony ap- 
pearances? His Beethoven? And the pro- 
grammes at Boston? Even his average pro- 
grammes ; take any one of them, with their light- 
est ballads . . . which mean so much to hun- 
dreds of thousands!" For I am not at one with 
some, who have failed, as yet, to probe the func- 
tion of the simple song, and what it does for the 

Mrs. McCormack brightened, I thought, at 
this, and nodded her head. 

"I've forgotten none of those things," she re- 
plied; "perhaps it is an over-conscientiousness 
about John, which I always have. He has it, 
too. Possibly it's contagious." She laughed 
merrily at this. "But everyone should know" 



(she was very positive on this point) "that John 
is thinking, striving constantly, for his audiences. 
And that he bends his life to what he believes 
they want and expect of him. Many people do 
know; which makes me anxious that it should 
be unanimous." 

I explained that unanimity, in art, was an un- 
attainable thing, to which she agreed. And this 
wish, it seems to me, is one which should be em- 
phasized. No person knows John McCormack 
as Mrs. McCormack knows him, so that what she 
says about her husband's earnestness should be 
passed along, from one to another, and reiterated 
until the whole world knows. 

"He has three things in life," continued Mrs. 
McGormack, in an unexpected burst of confi- 
dence: "His family, his Catholic faith, and his 
art. To each one his allegiance is complete; 
John never does a thing by halves. So, for the 
benefit of those who go to hear him sing and 
who derive comfort from his singing, I should 
be happy to have them know what I know. 

"I have no doubt that it was meant that he 
should perform the public service which he is 
performing. That is the reason, and the only 
one, why I let him go on his long tours when I, 


(Above) John McCormack and his 
" little Indian," Gwenny 

(Below) Driving his own car 

(Above) Out of doors at Noroton. 
At heart he is still a boy 

(Below) " Shoot them over I I'm 
ready ! " 


and the children, feel the need of him here at 
home. It is the reason, too, why I dread the 
day when he must curtail the fatiguing journeys, 
and the work, and the preparation which wears 
him in mind and body. You comprehend, don't 
you, how anxious I am that, doing this work, the 
sincerity back of it should be felt by every sin- 
gle soul?" 

John could not very well have told me that. 
So I was glad that Mrs. McCormack had spoken, 
in just that quiet way of hers the expressed 
hope of a wife who has stood shoulder to shoulder 
with her husband from the beginning of his 
career, and gone on up with him to the top. 

The screen-door slammed just then, and John 
came outside. 

"A little ride in the Cyril" (the McCormack 
power-boat) "would be a cooling excursion, 
don't you think?" he demanded. We thought 
so, and Miss Foley, appearing at that mo- 
ment, did, too. So we walked to the pier, got 
aboard and were soon scooting out into the Sound. 

It was late when we got back, with a full moon 
and many stars in the sky. Not a night for sleep, 
if one were talkatively inclined and a listener were 
near. So when Mrs. McCormack and Miss 



Foley left us John and I sat by ourselves on the 
veranda, no sounds save the locusts' calls falling 
upon our ears. I kept my eye on the glow of 
John's cigarette; it was growing duller, a sign 
that his mind was becoming active. After a 
time he began. 

"It was 9 o'clock on Holy Thursday morning 
of one of those perfect Italian spring days," said 
the tenor, in a lowered tone, "that we set out 
from our hotel in Rome to the Vatican. In this 
center of learning, the home of Italy's aristocrats 
and the gravitating place of diplomats the world 
over, we passed along: Mrs. McCormack, Mary 
Anderson, the Misses Scott, Mr. Scott, 'Tony' 
Navarro and I a group of pilgrims wending our 
way to that glorious edifice wherein the Princes 
of the Church assemble and plan for Christian- 
ity's good. And, as custom decreed, we men 
wore full evening dress, the women in black, with 

"I had thought often of such a journey; from 
the schooldays in Athlone on through the various 
phases of my life, in its hours of trials and joys. 
There was the intense blue of an Italian sky over- 
head, a blue which almost gave to the atmosphere 
a transparency to the eye, and from the buildings 



as we passed along there were cast now and again 
across our path varying shadows. 

"The day, had we picked it, could not have 
been more suitable to the occasion. For maj- 
esty stalked everywhere, while all about us there 
seemed to breathe 'Peace on Earth, Good Will 
toward Men.' I had never seen the Vatican. 
But from photographs I recognized it, quickly 
enough, as we approached. 

"Our visit, of course, had been made known 
to the Holy Father, in a propitious way. Inter- 
cession in our behalf had come from distin- 
guished dignitaries: Monsignor Fraser, Presi- 
dent of the Scotch College, and Monsignor Bis- 
letti. And that knowledge buoyed me, though I 
entered the portals with the others with trepida- 
tion and a feeling of numbness about my legs 
that made them dully heavy. For here I was, at 
last, at the fountainhead of the Church; a soli- 
tary soul, and diffident, yet eager to push on and 
clutching faintly at a hope I felt to be slipping, 
now that I drew near. 

"It was the one moment in all my life, until 
now, that awe seized and held me. The majesty 
of the Church and all it represents pervaded the 
interior of the outer room where we all stood. 



Others must have noticed, for directly the major- 
domo came over to us with an air of friendly in- 
tercession and asked what he might do. 

"Miss Anderson and her husband, who knew 
the Holy Father, spoke to the major-domo, who, 
after showing us to seats, departed to a large 
doorway beyond a doorway leading into the 
sacred chamber wherein the Holy Father, Pope 
Pius X, then was. 

"I cannot refrain from attributing what oc- 
curred to that unwavering Irish Catholic Faith to 
which I hold, and which has been my solace in 
many a weary hour, for sitting there I said three 
silent 'Hail Marys' to the Mother of Mt. Garmel, 
my patroness, and wished that it might be my 
honor and privilege to kneel before Pope Pius X 
and receive his blessing in his private room. 
And strangely, too, Mrs. McCormack, at that 
same moment, held similar thoughts in her mind. 
And then . . ." 

I sat very quiet. 

". . . Monsignor Semper, private secretary 
to Pope Pius X, came through the door I sat 
fixedly watching, and straight over to where we 
sat. I could not have moved, had my life de- 
pended upon it, to rise at that moment. I was 



able only to sit erect and stare, aware all the 
time of his nearing approach, until he stood above 
me, smiling. 

'The Holy Father,' he said in a rich voice, 
'will be pleased to receive you, Mr. McCormack, 
and your friends.' 

"For the life of me I could not restrain the 
subconscious feeling of my own insignificance as, 
following the secretary, I went with our party 
through the doorway and inside that room. 
Some little distance away, on his dais, he sat ; all 
in white, the visual sanctification of what he rep- 
resented : His Holiness, Pope Pius X. 

"Never had I seen such a beautiful face. It 
was oval, but though seamed with fine lines and 
a bit drawn through the illness from which he 
was then grievously suffering, in every feature 
one saw reflected the kindness of a great soul. 
His hair was very white and very long, and 
brushed straight back so that it touched, at its 
farthest ends, his collar. On the back of his 
head was his little succhetto and about his neck 
a gold chain and a cross. 

"I have said that he was all in white, and so 
he was. And his robes were a sort of wool, edged 
with white moire silk, and about his waist he 



wore a wide sash similarly trimmed. He seemed 
to me, and I have always so thought of him since, 
as the saintly and simple white father of Christen- 
dom. The Holy Father sat there as his secretary 
led us towards him, quite erect and looking out 
of eyes that were almost too bright. I think his 
power of will had much to do with keeping him 
out of his bed. 

"He greeted Mary Anderson and 'Tony' Na- 
varro, first, then the rest of us, as we knelt before 
him in a semi-circle. 

6 'Oh,' he said, in a low but wonderfully mu- 
sical voice, 'and so this is our tenor.' Miss An- 
derson had spoken my name, swiftly, and then 
stepped to one side. I stood there, mute for the 
moment, unable, it appeared, to do more than 
to feast my eyes upon that beautiful face, which 
held me (only one word adequately expresses it) 

"Then, with the rarest of smiles, the Holy 
Father extended his hand to me a hand white 
almost to transparency, with the veins showing 
blue along its back. I took it, with the tips of 
my fingers, kissed it and the ring of St. Peter on 
his finger. 

"And as I knelt there, emotions racing through 


my Irish blood such as it is beyond my powers 
to even attempt to describe, Pope Pius X blessed 


I was not surprised when John ceased speech 
then. The last part of his description had been 
voiced somewhat haltingly; lengthy pauses be- 
tween words, as though he saw himself living 
over again that experience. The tenor's head, 
too, had fallen slightly forward, so that his chin 
rested close to his chest. Now he sat there, in 
that attitude, intensely quiet and with no sign of 
life other than the breathing which moved his 
big shoulders. 

"I rose," he finally said, "unutterably happy. 
I remembered nothing clearly after that ; only of 
moving with the others and reaching the outer 
room, where we had waited. 

"The Holy Father followed soon afterward. 
And I saw him stop, on his way to the general 
audience, in each of four rooms that partly sur- 
round his own, to speak to different people who 
were waiting for him, and to bestow upon them 
his blessing as head of the greatest of churches, 
and the beloved of three hundred millions of 
faithful souls. 

"I am emotional, and I could no longer re- 


tain my self-control. I wept . . . and was un- 
able to proceed, for nearly half an hour. 

"We did not leave the Vatican, then, either; 
for there were the art treasures to be viewed and 
other things of historic appeal to us. I could not 
hurry; each canvas and the objets d'art held 
something more to me than artistic value. Even 
those of less splendid mastery than others were 
hallowed, to my eyes. 

"So we finally came away. 

"It was nearly noon when we walked down the 
Vatican steps. But I did not bring myself back 
to the modern world until evening. Mrs. Me- 
Cormack can tell you; she felt as I did." 



The tide was in at seven that morning, and I 
went across Rocklea lawn towards the pier for a 
before-breakfast swim. I was on the string- 
piece before I caught sight of a head, a couple 
of hundred yards out in the Sound, and heard a 
hail John McCormack's, unmistakably, even at 
that distance. 

I dove and stroked my way towards the tenor, 
who was amusing himself in small-boy fashion: 
treading, duck-diving, cavorting about with an 
assortment of swimming strokes and varying all 
this by occasionally interjecting an imitation of a 
sea-lion's roar which makes a noise if you catch 
the water just right with the lips. 

"Nine pounds under top-weight, this morn- 
ing," announced John gleefully; "ten minutes 
more of this, then breakfast and on to the gym- 
nasium. Whereupon the tenor allowed himself 
to sink beneath the water, and I sprinted off to 
escape the ducking I knew threatened. 



John reappeared presently, with a grin of dis- 
appointment spread on his tanned face. "You 
moved," he charged goodnaturedly, after which 
we gave ourselves to the swim. 

Breakfast over I went to the study while John 
drove to the gymnasium of tortures for two hours 
of hand-ball and gruelling physical effort that 
terminated in kneading that I am told feels like 
being run over by a steam-roller. 

It was two o'clock before the McCormack 
schedule brought him to me and our purpose of 
those days. 

"The single memento of that visit to the Va- 
tican," he remarked, "was a medallion of St. 
Cecelia, which Pope Pius X had blessed. I've 
carried it ever since." And zealously, it would 
appear, for it is on his person during every wak- 
ing hour and never does he make a professional 
appearance without that medallion carried in his 
pocket, at the end of his watch-chain. 

"It had been a glorious trip, to Italy, but home 
is always home and Mrs. McCormack and I were 
not sorry when we were in our Hampstead abode 
once more. The Covent Garden Grand season 
was near, and I set to work to prepare for my 
part in it. 



"The winter had been an eventful one," he 
went on, and as the desire for reminiscence 
seemed strong I was glad to have him indulge it. 
Thus far he had said little about the celebrities 
he had met at the London homes he had visited. 
With his thoughts traveling in the direction of 
those experiences I concluded he would recall 
some interesting incidents to relate. 

"For so young a man," said John, "I was for- 
tunate. My artist colleagues were all my 
seniors. To be included with them in the invita- 
tions to notable homes was something to appre- 
ciate. For every such occasion enlarged my list 
of acquaintances. Occasionally it yielded me a 
steadfast friend. 

"Lady de Grey's place Combe Court, it was 
called, at Kingston-on-Thames always held at- 
tractions. Only the most successful artists were 
asked to participate in the musicales, and I was 
not unmindful of the honor when such an invita- 
tion was extended to me. At first finding my- 
self in the midst of so many distinguished per- 
sonages (as they were pointed out to me, one 
after another) , I felt abashed. It was my intro- 
duction to members of the royal family, and of 
the peerage, and to personalities I knew about 



but never had beheld at close range. So my dif- 
fidence, I daresay, was natural enough. There 
has to be a beginning, with every one. 

"But during those first seasons at Co vent 
Garden the experience widened; nearly every 
one was considerate of me, and I profited by these 
opportunities to mingle with men and women 
who were of some account in the world. Fine 
minds there were, too, among them; and not 
many who were so engrossed with themselves as 
to be inconsiderate. 

"A magnificent type of man was Prince Fran- 
cis, of Teck, brother to Queen Mary, magnifi- 
cent, physically; nearly six feet-three, with the 
patrician's features, formed like an Apollo and 
with the gentlest nature and most democratic 
ways. You felt him the thoroughbred the mo- 
ment he came near. He radiated strength and 
authority, in the way one will who is born to it. 

"I recall, often, his offhand manner of speech 
to me at various meetings in different London 
homes. On one occasion, referring to some im- 
portant topic of the hour, he remarked: 
'Doesn't it make your Irish blood boil, McCor- 
mack? It does mine.' ' 

The tenor stretched himself in his chair, patted 


one of the dogs who nosed his arm, and emitted 
a short laugh. 

"What's the row?" I demanded. 

"I was thinking of an experience I once had, 
singing for the late King Edward. It was at the 
United States Ambassadorial residence, then oc- 
cupied by Whitelaw Reid. Lillian Nordica and 
I were the singers at that musicale; I'll always 
have that experience to put me in good humor 
when I feel the need for it. 

"Mme. Nordica sang first, and mighty well; 
she was an artist. But when she rejoined me, 
just outside the music-room, she was convulsed. 
She was some moments in controlling her mirth, 
the cause of which I was impatient to learn. 

" 'Never mind, John,' she said, 'you'll dis- 
cover for yourself, soon enough. 'Twould be a 
pity to spoil it.' 

"I left her, with a curious feeling, and en- 
tered the music-room and walked over to the 
piano. King Edward and a group of men stood 
together, near one window. Though I fancied 
they had seen me come in and prepare for my 
first number none gave me the slightest attention ; 
they couldn't do so, out of deference to his Ma- 
jesty, who continued talking in a very loud tone. 



"I waited; but the talking still continued. I 
should have stood there, silent, for a long time 
had not the accompanist prompted me to pro- 

" 'But the King?' I queried. 

" 'Will stop his talk when you begin singing 
. . . possibly.' 

"So I started. And straight through to the 
end I sang that song, which never made the least 
impression on King Edward. He maintained 
his conversation, in a very loud voice ; and when 
I had finished he was still talking. He is dead, 
now, and I don't wish to appear disrespectful; 
yet I cannot refrain from remarking upon the 
difference between his attitude towards an artist 
and that of Queen Alexandra. 

"Those were wonderful days, though," said 
the tenor, with a smile. They developed many 
friendships, which have lasted. Mary Ander- 
son was one. 

"I can see her, now, that first afternoon when 
she recited to me, entire, Shakespeare's address 
to the players. Think of that privilege ! I did 
not immediately grasp what the composition was, 
nor what it meant to be her exclusive auditor. 
But as she went on and on, with her superb elo- 



quence and power, I caught the spirit and began 
to appreciate. She was in smiles, at the end; 
for she had seen how moved I had been. 

" Such experiences leave upon a nature like 
mine something of an impress. I did not get 
over the effects of that reading of Mary Ander- 
son's for weeks. At intervals, and in the most 
unexpected places, phrases of that address would 
return to me heard, almost, as if that superb 
artist herself had appeared suddenly before me 
and declaimed them. 

"She is what we hear mentioned, often, as a 
womanly-woman. The better one gets to know 
her the more this is revealed. She has mentality 
and all the sensitiveness of the artist, with the 
most lovable ways imaginable. And wonderful 
eyes that's the word: 'wonderful.' Tony Na- 
varro is a fortunate man ; and I am proud to count 
him my friend. Yes they are an exceptional 

"There were few of the notable London homes 
which I was not lucky enough to enter at these 
musicales I describe. The Duchess of Marl- 
borough's, the Duchess of Manchester's, the 
Duke of Portland's, the Aga Khan's and numer- 
ous others embassies of the different countries 



among them. The Dowager Empress of Russia, 
Queen Alexandra's sister, was one of the illustri- 
ous personages I was honored in meeting; and 
the King of Portugal . . . and hosts of others. 

"There was one affair which continued, 
throughout an evening, with most of the guests 
(to say nothing of the artists) in smiles. It was 
given by the Aga Khan of India a sort of Pope, 
I believe, in his country. There was scarcely 
a minute during the soiree that he did not walk 
to and fro, in a pair of shoes that squeaked with 
each step he took like small animals protesting 
in a cage. 

"But that was all in the day's work. What 
meant far more to me were the hours spent with 
my good friends : Sir John Murray Scott, and his 
charming sisters ; Neil Forsyth, General Manager 
of Covent Garden (poor chap, he was accidentally 
drowned, in Nineteen Fourteen) , Mary Anderson 
and Tony Navarro. 

"Theirs was an influence which any man might 
have been glad to feel and profit by. I've no 
doubt each one helped me immeasurably during 
that period of my life, and career, to steer a 
straight course. They say that a man is known 
by his associates ; he progresses, or retrogresses, 



according to the quality of those associates. So 
you may see what advantages were mine. For 
when a man goes out into the world it remains 
for him to attract quite as much as to choose, 
for choice, alone, will not always suffice the 
right sort of friends. Up to that point it is the 
influence of the parents which counts; his up- 
bringing. Thereafter, it is with the man . . . 
or woman. 

"However I'll not philosophize further. 

"That spring of Nineteen Hundred Nine was 
auspicious. Covent Garden was preparing for 
a gala performance to be given in honor of Presi- 
dent Fallieres of France, and I was among those 
chosen to participate. It was a distinguished 
occasion, and the attendance composed of the no- 
bility, members of the various foreign diplomatic 
corps, army and navy officers and attaches and 
other persons of importance in London. I shall 
later describe the second Covent Garden gala per- 
formance in which I took part, given two years 
later in honor of the coronation of King 
George V. 

"Mrs. McCormack left for Dublin soon after 
this gala performance; and on the 21st of July, I 
received news of the arrival of a baby girl, no 



less a person than your young friend Gwendolyn 

The words were barely uttered when Gwen ap- 
peared, sprang into her father's lap and smiling 
across at me proceeded to impress John McCor- 
mack with the fact that he was her particular and 
personal property. 




There is a short man of whom newspaper men 
have been wont freely to write who threw his 
shadow across the path of John McCormack in 
the spring of Nineteen Hundred Nine. He wore 
a moustache and a pointed beard then, as now, 
and mostly upon his head a top hat famed for 
its caricaturing by cartoonists, whose facile pen- 
cils tilted it at rakish angles over a rotund face 
distinguished, chiefly, by the humor lighted by 
two very bright eyes. 

America might name him from this descrip- 
tion alone. But lest others, who know him less 
intimately than New Yorkers, be impatient to 
learn just who is meant we will supply the in- 
formation: Oscar Hammerstein. 

Hammerstein, the astute; Hammerstein, the 
resourceful; Hammerstein, than whom no clev- 
erer impresario ever signed a contract, or fed 
an opera-going public upon the best to be had. 



A fighter, who made the enemies a good fighter 
will; a familiar figure in the courts of law, but 
to those he liked and to those who gave him their 
loyalty, a staunch friend. 

"The greatest tragedy that ever befell musical 
New York," declared McCormack with convic- 
tion, "was when the Manhattan Opera House 
closed its doors in Nineteen Hundred Ten." 
Countless others feel the same way in that matter. 
There was only one Oscar; there never can be 

Cleofonte Campanini had gradually come to 
discover qualities in the singing of John Mc- 
Cormack that roused his admiration. Like 
other uncommon men, Campanini was not afraid 
to change his mind. The young Irish tenor had 
developed since he had reached Covent Garden, 
and in him Campanini (who was Hammerstein's 
first-conductor and musical advisor) began to 
discern a candidate for possible honors across the 
seas. He spoke to Oscar of McCormack, at the 
close of the Manhattan's 1908-1909 season 
on the verge of departing for Covent Garden to 
assume his conductorship duties there beginning 
with the gala performance in honor of President 
Fallieres which has been described. 



"Hear him, at all events," counseled Cam- 
panini, and sailed. 

"I was not unprepared, when I met Hammer- 
stein," said John. "Campanini had told me, 
'The Manhattan would just suit your voice, and 
I want you. But before we sign let us wait for 
Oscar. He will arrive soon.' ; 

Gwen McCormack clambered down from her 
father's knees and John watched her scamper off 
with the dogs, on some errand of joyous youth. 

"I was drawn at once towards Hammerstein," 
admitted the tenor. "He was a 'different' sort 
of impresario. He'd heard me before we met 
at a Covent Garden performance and had 
formed his opinion. 

"Some time later I was told of a remark he 
had made concerning me. 

'With that voice,' said Oscar, 'and his Irish 
name what a career he could have in concerts.' 

"That's what I call scoring a bull's-eye. He 
had vision, Oscar Hammerstein. I doubt if he 
stopped to analyze. He just sensed a thing, in 
that instantaneous way of his; and generally he 
was right. And I should like to say that no 
keener judge of an artist lives than Oscar Ham- 
merstein. He's unerring. 



"I was introduced to him by Campanini, at 
Covent Garden after a rehearsal. He wore his 
famous top hat, and from his mouth protruded 
one of his almost equally famous cigars doubt- 
less one of his own hand-manufacture, a practice 
he indulged in even when the distracting business 
of running an opera house occupied most of the 
twenty-four hours of each of his days. 

"Hammerstein had an ingratiating personality. 
Magnetic, he was, and straightforward. And I 
shall never cease to be grateful to him for the 
opportunities he so freely gave me. 'Well, 
Mike,' he would say, 'what do you think; can 
you do it? Yes? All right, go ahead.' So 
brief a conversation as this would settle the ques- 
tion of a new role, and fill me with confidence 
to sing a dozen. 

"We didn't spend much time over negotiations. 
Campanini offered me a three years' contract, 
(which was already drawn and only awaited Os- 
car's signature) with a salary of seven hundred 
dollars a week for the first season, eight hundred 
a week for the second, and twelve hundred and 
fifty for the third season. And I accepted the 

A haze had begun to vaporize things, creep- 


ing with imperceptible stealth as John had talked 
so that, in my attentiveness to the tale, I had 
taken no notice. My host was settled comfort- 
ably in a wicker easy-chair, his face pillowed 
against one fist, his eyes seeing nothing imme- 
diately thereabouts. I let my gaze traverse from 
the now-hidden waters of the Sound, impatient 
for the resumption of conversation. 

"Substantial fees had been my lot that sea- 
son," said John. "In those desirable London 
homes I received, for my singing, considerably 
more than the fifty guineas which those incom- 
parable artists Mario and Grisi had received to- 
gether for such services and I saw, with my 
own eyes, a cheque for one of these concerts. 
Then there was the concert which I was instru- 
mental in giving, for the benefit of the survivors 
of the Messina disaster held in Albert Hall 
which netted seven hundred pounds. Repre- 
sentatives of all the diplomatic corps were pres- 
ent, and the orchestra (at the special request of 
Queen Alexandra) played Elgar's Tomp and 

"The acceptance of Hammerstein's American 
operatic offer was, as I explained to him, de- 
pendent upon my being able to arrange with 



the Harrison concert management for the can- 
cellation of appearances then prepared for me 
for the approaching autumn. I was glad when 
I was informed that this could be done. It left 
the way clear, and I began to speculate upon the 

"That first visit to the United States, five years 
before, had left an unfortunate impression. 
My treatment was not a thing easy to forget. 
But, I argued, 'The St. Louis Fair isn't New 
York, and matters probably will take a different 

"Sir John Murray Scott agreed that the Ham- 
merstein contract was one to accept. His coun- 
sel always was sound. Even in those early Co- 
vent Garden days he had reminded me : 'Caruso 
has a Caruso style, Mario had a Mario style 
do you cultivate a McCormack style. Do not 
imitate another, no matter how great he may be 
nor how much he may do that appeals to your 
tastes. Be original, and with your resources 
you will become a personality yourself.' 

"Now, in my mental perturbation, I found 
solace in the assurances of Sir John. Listening 
to him talk I found apprehensiveness waning; 
and other friends, in their views of the proposed 











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American engagement, coincided with Sir John. 

"I took, at that period, to evening strolls near 
my Hampstead home, and during one of them 
stopped a stranger to ask him for a match. It 
was a trivial enough incident, which I soon for- 
got. I had no suspicion, even, that the stranger 
knew who I was ; but it seems that he did. For 
three years later, during a summer visit to Hamp- 
stead I received this letter." 

The tenor handed me the communication, un- 
signed as to name, and bearing the date July 23, 
1912. It was so unusual that I suggested that 
it be incorporated, in facsimile, in this book. 

"There was much to do before the date of de- 
parture for New York," explained McCormack. 
"I had numerous friends to take farewells of, 
realizing that they could not safely be de- 
layed until last moments. And there was the 
gathering together of such things as one would 
require. In the midst of the London part of 
that task I received a request from the Odeon 
Phonograph Company to confer with their ex- 

"They wanted me to make some records, at 
terms thoroughly satisfactory, and I signed a 
contract. About this time, also the gentleman 



of the Gramophone Company the one who had 
told me three years before that I was worth noth- 
ing to him made overtures. But I was in no 
hurry, or need at the time for funds, so I put him 
off. Other offers, of record-making, I likewise 
sidetracked. Then I went to Dublin. 

"Gwen was chubby and healthy, Cyril had 
grown into a sturdy youngster of two and Mrs. 
McCormack was unspeakably happy. For a 
week we let nothing interfere with our visit. I 
became, altogether, a man of family; willing to 
forget songs and singing in those closest to me. 
It was a week, also, of gradual mental readjust- 
ment; of calls from friends, who discovered (as 
friends will, intuitive-fashion) that I had re- 
turned, and who came to talk and gather the 
latest news from London. 

"Then followed my trip to Athlone. 

"I never go there to this day that the 
sight of familiar spots does not bring tears to 
my eyes. I had played football here, and there 
had a fight with one of my rivals, while in vari- 
ous places (as I walked along toward the Mc- 
Cormack home) some incident of my youth re- 
enacted itself to my momentary pleasure or sor- 



"Scores of people stopped me, wrung my hand 
till it tingled, and demanded, in those few mo- 
ments I was then able to spare, accounts of what 
had befallen me since I had last been home. 
There's nothing like such home-coming greet- 
ings from Tom, Dick and Harry ; the old crowd, 
which has known you since you were a kid and 
is just as happy in your success as you are your- 

"But I got on, after such interruptions, and 
at length went through the gate and up to the 
front door. Mother grabbed me first, then my 
sisters. Father and Jim came in at noon-time, 
for lunch, and we held a pow-wow, which ended 
with my telling all the details of the Hammer- 
stein engagement. 

"But those times came to an end all too sud- 

"Embarking-time arrived. With Mrs. Mc- 
Cormack, I went aboard the steamship, on 
October fifteenth, Nineteen Hundred Nine, in 
Queenstown. And on that day, our friends wav- 
ing to us from the dock, we sailed away west- 
ward. I felt my throat catch as the shore faded, 
becoming at last a mere fringe on the horizon. 
'What,' I asked myself, 'is in store for me?' 


"That night, in solitude, I paced the deck of 
the great liner. Stars rose in the clear sky 
and a brisk wind whipped disquietude from my 
thoughts and brought tranquillity. Thus heart- 
ened I went below, to my cabin and rest." 




"Enterprise," assured McCormack to me one 
cool day which succeeded those of oven-like heat 
which sent July, 1918, on its backward way, 
"will always be associated, for me, with those 
tireless and keen-scented men of the daily press. 
They are marvels of energy, as well as of inquisi- 
tiveness, and with faculties of divination I never 
could solve. With their corkscrew methods they 
extract from one's mind more than he suspects 
lies there, and next he knows he reads it in print. 

"The trip to New York from Queenstown was 
uneventful. The usual ship-concerts, in which 
I appeared; the daily deck- walks, the lolling in 
chairs, meals, a bit of gossip and sleep. One 
day was but a repetition of another that pre- 
ceded : the routine of life at sea aboard a modern 
liner, and that infinite space which met the eye 
when one looked away from her. To me there is 
something sublimely majestic about the ocean; 
a suggestion of mysterious power. But it did 



not exert itself during our five-days' run. We 
had good weather and a propitious voyage. I re- 
call no musician of distinction among my fellow 
passengers, other than Gustav Mahler who kept 
much to himself. 

"Coming up New York bay those same scenes 
I had first beheld five years before reappeared. 
Their mental effect, however, was different. I 
was to an extent sophisticated ; less the green lad 
from the Emerald Isle with teeth uncut. Shortly 
came the ships-news reporters, with their inves- 
tigating minds. 

"Treading American soil again I felt a thrill. 
My physical objective was reached, another link 
in the chain of my career about to be forged. 
Into a cab this time a taxi I put Mrs. Mc- 
Cormack, and the driver whirled us off, towards 
the Hoffman House, at Broadway and Twenty- 
fifth Street, where our quarters were in waiting. 

"I fell quickly into the way of things, for I 
am an adaptable animal. For a few days Mrs. 
McCormack and I suffered the pangs of home- 
sickness in their severe stage. But they gradu- 
ally disappeared. The marvelous energy of the 
people one met in the streets, which had not so 
impressed me at my first American visit, was 



rather startling. There were times when this 
physical violence, this rushing of persons past 
one with set mouths and staring eyes, was un- 
nerving. They epitomized the exhaustless ag- 
gressiveness of the nation; a horde of humans 
competing ruthlessly with one another, seeking 
their goals which they seemed bent on having 
or dying in the attempt. I dare not think what 
might have happened had it been my fate to clash 
with them in their mad scramble for the attain- 
able. I was glad that my course lay in quieter 
places, though the struggle there, if less out- 
wardly violent, is nevertheless a fight. 

"I suppose," mused the tenor, "it is largely 
as our feelings incline. Still, I cannot repress, 
every time I find myself in a business-bent New 
York crowd, that sudden feeling of pity for those 
I see buffeting past. For in every group there 
is one failure; some man or woman struggling 
vainly against odds unable to win, yet plodding 
doggedly on." 

With his description of all this John had grown 
restless. I noticed his big hands clench until 
the muscles of his forearms flexed in huge ridges. 
His mouth, too, had a firmer line, and those smil- 
ing Irish eyes narrowed. I was not surprised. 



McCormack cannot see others suffer without ex- 
periencing suffering himself. He's strong and 
rough enough, with the rough and strong; who 
can take as well as give, when hard knocks come. 
But underneath, if you look, you will find a sen- 
sitive heart that beats for the oppressed, for 
the sad and the weak. 

No one, deserving help, ever goes for it in 
vain to John McCormack. It is natural for him 
to lend others a hand. And if you would probe 
the real McCormack you must be near him when 
he reads some letter from a little old lady some- 
thing like the following, written in New York in 

"Dear Mr. McCormack: 

"As I am a little old woman with hair as white 
as snow, and you, thank Heaven ! are a very young 
man, it seems to me that, at the ending of your 
season here, I might try to express my heartfelt 
appreciation of your recitals in New York. I 
have joyfully attended them all have asked ap- 
preciative friends to go with me and I have sent 
many who have gratefully told me of their delight. 
For us all, in a greater or less degree, this has 
been a winter heavily shadowed by sorrow and 
anxiety for others. I have found my greater 
pleasure at your concerts; on Sunday afternoon 



I shall listen to the last note that you sing, with 
a delight that I find in your every song, but with 
the keenest regret that we must wait so long be- 
fore we can hear you again. 

"All along my life abroad and in this coun- 
try I have heard the greatest singers of many 
lands sing in their prime, many of them ballads 
and songs that you give us. But, for myself, 
they have never been as flawless and satisfying. 
With the beautiful voice is the perfect reading 
the right value and clear enunciation of each 
word and new values given to many words. For 
instance, I have never heard a singer give to the 
word 'repose' that sense of peaceful rest, deeply 
desired, that you give to this word. In her youth 
I heard Patti give to the word 'alone' a depth 
and pathos, unusual in her singing a sense of 
utter loss and desolation that I can still distinctly 

"I could select many words whose value has 
been enriched and deepened, as you have sung 
them. If anyone should say to me: 'I should 
like to read simply and appealingly, giving a 
sense of beauty and richness of the English lan- 
guage to whom shall I turn?' I should say: 
'Go to every concert that Mr. McCormack gives 
you can't hope to sing as he does but you can 
learn from him to read as you desire.' 

"If you had no singing voice left, and far in- 
deed mav that evil day be ! I should still go to 



hear you read your songs and for that alone I 
believe you would still gather throngs. As for 
the singing itself, I will say that you could sing 
the shoes off my feet and I'd never know they 
were gone (I've a strain of Irish blood, you see). 

"If I were a young woman I could not send you 
this letter. It is one of the few compensations 
of age, that one can say and do as one pleases. 
But with all the enthusiasm of early youth, I 
could not have the deep enjoyment of your sing- 
ing that I have at this late hour, when I know 
fully the cares and sorrows and losses that life 
can bring. 

"Young, with perfect health, with a rich en- 
dowment in so many directions and with your dear 
ones around you to give you peace and joy and 
rest, you know of sorrowful things only through 
the sure intuitions given to an artist's soul may 
you and yours never learn of them in any other 

"Believing that all generous natures rejoice in 
giving pleasure through their gifts, I feel sure 
that you will understand my wish to express my 
deep appreciation and hearty thanks, as I have 
tried to do here, for what has been one of the 
greatest joys of my life. Someone said to me 
yesterday C I hope that his marvelous success 
may not turn Mr. McCormack's head.' I said: 
'It never will if he is really great. Mr. Edwin 



Booth whose success came in his early youth, 
said to me not long before his death: 4 I have 
never known what it was to end an evening's 
work at all satisfied with myself. No public ap- 
plause or praise of friends could change my own 
view. My standard was always beyond my 
reach ; I could always see where I failed to reach 

"All the truly great people I have known have 
expressed this feeling in one way or another. So 
I feel that it is only the very small, poorly en- 
dowed, natures that can be at all harmed by praise 
of their work, whatever that work may be. 

"I have written with an easy conscience, for 
I do not expect any word in reply to my letter. 
I could not be so selfish and so cruel as to add 
that task for a tired man, tired indeed you must 
be, as your long, full season ends. No, this is 
just a wee voice in the chorus of voices that have 
told you just the same things in far better words 
than I can find it makes no faintest demand 
upon you in any way. Next season I hope, 
through my friend Mrs. William McAdoo, to have 
the pleasure of an introduction to Mrs. McCor- 
mack, of whom I have heard the pleasantest 
things, and yourself. 

"For that good time I shall wait with an old 
woman's heartiest thanks and blessings for the 
songs that have brightened her life, and for the 



singer and with all best Easter wishes for Mrs. 
McCormack, the children and yourself, 
"I remain, 

"Gratefully yours, 

It would destroy the sense of fitness to give 
the name of the lady who wrote John McCor- 
mack, from the depths of her heart. But there 
is one thing I can say she received a reply, 
penned, I am sure, by a hand that was not al- 
together steady and guided by a pair of eyes not 
free from moments of blurred vision. And that 
little lady is now one of the good friends of the 
tenor and his wife. 

For that human understanding, which is so 
large a part of McCormack's nature, is one of 
the principal elements which have made him the 
singer he is ; which had carried him, even on the 
eve of his Manhattan Opera House debut, far 
along in his ability to touch his hearers and to 
move them with the emotions he felt. 

I intimated, some pages back, that John does 
not flinch under punishment. It was well for 
him, on Wednesday, November 10, 1909, that 
he belonged to no timorous kin and lacked no 
faith in himself. For nearly three weeks the 



tenor's voice had refused to become adjusted to 
the climatic conditions of New York. Rest and 
throat-specialists brought no improvement to the 
roughened membranes surrounding that golden 
voice-box. John's debut-morning dawned with 
his voice still below par, and in no condition for 
the oncoming demands. 

But he had been announced, he was a fighter 
and he wouldn't quit. 

Until an hour before curtain-time the respon- 
siveness of John's voice was uncertain. It was 
only natural that he should have walked the floor 
of his hotel chamber a large part of that day; and 
that he should have turned, in his hour of need, 
to prayer. He did both, and submitted to the 
ministrations of his physican, Dr. Dupont. 
"But not once," asserts Mrs. McCormack, "did 
his faith waver. Til go on,' he would repeat, 
from time to time, 'and get through all right.' : 

Those of us who were present at the Manhat- 
tan, that evening, remember how he got through. 
With Tetrazzini and Sammarco, and with An- 
selmi conducting, John McCormack made his 
American operatic debut as Alfredo in "Travi- 
ata." And without stint that large and discrim- 
inating audience "rose to him" (as some of the 



critics averred) and accepted him as a tenor they 
wished to hear. 

In better voice, since then, he has given a bet- 
ter account of himself. But experts did not 
disagree as to the purity of those lyric tones, the 
delightful freedom of their delivery and the un- 
affected style with which Verdi's music was sung. 
From that November night of Nineteen Hundred 
Nine there was no doubt as to the future in this 
country of John McCormack. Whether there 
were any in the Manhattan audience with the 
vision of Oscar Hammerstein, when he foresaw 
McCormack's concert possibilities, I do not know. 
What I do recall is that he passed his test, and 
entered into those precincts sought by many but 
gained by the few. 




"For me," said McCormack when next the 
mood was upon him to go on with his narrative, 
"a first performance is no conclusive test. An 
accident may mar it, some lucky circumstance 
swing it higher than it deserves. The second 
and the third appearances are what truly count, 
for then the people know, and the artist may de- 
termine for himself, how far he is likely to go 
and the possible sum total of his accomplishment. 
To 'repeat,' if I may use the phrase, is the mea- 
sure by which we are estimated and which finally 
classifies us in the niche where we belong. 

"I lay next morning, in my bed, thinking 
deeply of what the succeeding days should bring 
forth. On the following Monday I was cast for 
Edgardo, in 'Lucia,' and later in that week I knew 
I should be called on to do Tonio in'The Daughter 
of the Regiment.' I already had read the news- 
paper reviews, which were eminently fair. Sev- 
eral were emphatic in their predictions for me; 



and, so far as I could gather, my debut was a mat- 
ter for congratulation as I soon found out. 

"The 'phone bell rang and answering it I 
heard Oscar's voice on the wire. 

'You should be in good voice this morning, 
Mike,' he announced, 'the press is for you.' 

' 'Mike ! ' By that name Hammerstein always 
called me, after that, and he still does. I rather 
liked it, for it always rang, when he used it, with 
a touch of sincere cordiality. 

"I tubbed, dressed and after breakfast felt 
physically better than I had since I had arrived 
in New York. The period of greatest ap- 
prehensiveness was past. There seemed no good 
reason why I should not continue with the suc- 
cess I had begun, and I determined to do my best 
to this end. The throat, when Dr. Dupont came 
to examine it, showed no ill effects from having 
sung the previous night. That comforted me, 
and when I left the hotel for a stroll I doubt if I 
would willingly have changed places with any- 
one had such a thing been possible." 

"And the 'Lucia' and 'Regiment' perform- 
ances they satisfied you?" 

"I am never satisfied. Flaws are always ap- 
parent, in whatever I may do. But the roles in 



those two operas . . . you should know how I 
sang them; you were there." 

He had sung them well that's a matter of 
record. His voice, too, was in a more normal 
state and he gave it more freely. John's confi- 
dence in the outcome also appeared to have stiff- 
ened. He no longer doubted, even slightly. 
Public acceptance had been swift; he could 
safely conclude that he would go far. 
With that consciousness which he confesses he 
then felt he sang with increased authority, and 
as the season wore on McCormack gained in ad- 
herents and in the mastery of his art. 

But for me, John McCormack's metier has ever 
been the song. He is the singer per se; and in 
singing one has quite enough to do without con- 
cerning himself with externals, as is more or less 
compulsory in opera. For I remember no great 
opera artist, excelling in the dramatic side, who 
was correspondingly satisfactory as a singer. 
Jear. de Reszke is a possible exception, yet he 
was more the singer than the actor. Fernando 
de Lucia, whom McCormack admired devotedly, 
proved that one night most conclusively. He 
sang Don Jose in "Carmen" shortly after Jean de 
Reszke had appeared in that role, and forever 



after de Reszke's Don Jose was a milk and watery 
affair in acting comparison. 

So I was interested in McCormack's first con- 
cert appearance, which took place in the Man- 
hattan Opera House one November Sunday 
evening. Unhampered by the trappings and 
shams of that hybrid art-form the opera the 
tenor was most gloriously at ease. Even then 
his diction was a thing of joy for those who ap- 
preciate that much of the superiority of the voice, 
to all other instruments, is its capacity for speech. 
McCormack gave us the text that night; clearly, 
so that every syllable could be understood. And 
people went away from the concert talking about 
it. "I never passed a more enjoyable season 
than that first and only one at the Manhattan," 
said McCormack, dreamily. "I was not long in 
discovering the financial whirlpool which was 
threatening to engulf Hammerstein, and it 
seemed a shocking and unfair thing. For he 
was a great man. And he deserved to succeed. 
Yet, with all the weight that he alone carried, 
he maintained a marvelous poise. With me, he 
was always serene. I know of his fits of temper, 
and some of the causes which were enough to 
have tried Job. Still, he invariably greeted me 


with that contagious smile. We of the Manhat- 
tan were like a happy family, and there were some 
great artists in it. Nellie Melba, whose beauti- 
ful singing still may be taken as a criterion by far 
younger artists of to-day; Mary Garden, unique 
artist, if ever there was one, who is as incompar- 
able in those roles exclusively hers as she was ten 
years ago ; Luisa Tetrazzini, whose brilliant voice 
was something to remember, as is her thoughtful 
kindness to me when I needed it; Mario Sam- 
marco, friend always and one of the great artists 
of his time; Maurice Renaud, one of the most 
finished baritones France has produced; Charles 
Gilibert, the inimitable, gentle soul that he was ; 
Giovanni Zenatello, whose heroic tenor voice con- 
tinues to move his audiences; Mariette Mazarin, 
whose Elektra remains in my memory as one of 
the herculean vocal feats possible to a dramatic 
soprano; Jeanne Gerville-Reache and Clothilde 
Bressler-Gianoli, two mezzo-sopranos whose 
equals one seldom finds; Lina Cavalieri, Hector 
Dufranne, Charles Dalmores, and others. 

"But that list tells part of the Hammerstein 
story and is proof enough of what he did for 
musical New York. Then there were the operas 
that he gave though not all of them, of course, 



in that single year I was a member of his com- 
pany. Just think! 'Pelleas et Melisande,' 
'Thais,' 'Louise,' 'Le Jongleur de Notre Dame,' 
'Elektra,' to mention a few of the absolute 
novelties and the revivals he made ! 

"I've heard him called 'resourceful Os- 
car,' " said McCormack, reflectively, "and that 
he was. And a thorn, always, in the side of the 
Metropolitan Opera Company's flesh though 
just why he was so construed I never could com- 
prehend. For he was a stimulant to that man- 
agement; forever keeping a competitor alert, as 
he should be kept which is good for opera. 

"That competition, by the way, was a public 
delight. There were no idle moments, for any 
of us at either institution. We were spurred 
on to our best beyond the spurring usual in most 
opera houses. There was the consciousness of 
close personal scrutiny, of keenest criticism of 
our efforts and that was the artistic advantage 
of every one of us. 

"There have been stories, as I know, that 
Hammerstein was weeks behind with his artists' 
salaries. I have always doubted those tales. 
From such evidence as came before me they did 
not hold water. For myself I can say that what 



was due me always came promptly, and not a 
day late. Even when the finances became 
pinched Oscar never asked me to wait, or com- 
plained at the heavy drain which his pay-roll 
wrought. I could see how worried he was, but, 
while he was discouraged, he continued a fighter 
to the end. 

"He crumpled a bit, towards the end of the 
season. He confessed to me, then, that he was 
probably through. 'But you will be taken care 
of, Mike; tenors such as you are are rare.' ' 

I know, incidentally, that by that remark 
Oscar Hammerstein meant more than the voice 
when he said "such tenors as you are are rare." 
He said so to me, often. "McCormack's got a 
tenor voice, but there the tenor part of him ends. 
He's a man." 

An incident tending to indicate such to be the 
case was John's comment upon his first interview 
in America. "Sylvester Rawling, music editor 
of the New York Evening World, was the first 
newspaperman to whom I talked extensively for 
publication," said the tenor. "He sent word up 
to my hotel rooms that he would like to see me. 
I had an engagement for tea, at the Waldorf 
Astoria, and hadn't time to invite him to stop for 



what he wanted. 'But,' I said to Rawling, Til 
be glad to have you come along; perhaps we can 
chat on the way over there.' He was so consid- 
erate in the matter, and wrote such an interesting 
story, that I never can forget." 

John poured forth the story of this chapter one 
cloudy afternoon, as he stood leaning against 
the rail of his Rocklea pier. He seemed down- 
cast, during that portion relating to the decline 
of Hammerstein. Now and again he would 
shake his head sadly before proceeding farther. 
But eventually he got back, once more, to the 
sequence of events. 

"With New York comfortably started," con- 
fided John, "I began to look toward my first ap- 
pearances in other cities. The Manhattan took 
its weekly jaunts to Philadelphia, as you remem- 
ber, and Hammerstein had told me I should soon 
have my chance at the Quakers. 'They'll either 
be for or against you,' he said, 'they are no half- 
way sort over there.' 

"I marveled at the opera house, when I first 
saw its depth. Oscar had built it (he could 
never keep out of real estate, or inventing to- 
bacco-machinery) during his third New York 
season and Philadelphia then had a suitably 



modern place for its operatic occasions. It was 
named the Metropolitan and was a huge affair. 

"We traveled from New York to Philadelphia 
and return by special train excepting those 
who remained over, after a hard performance, to 
rest comfortably in a hotel. Those trips were 
jolly affairs : one chair car being reserved for the 
principal artists, the conductor and members of 
the executive staff. Hammerstein always went 
along, for he believed in the theory of personal 

'When I'm there, Mike,' he would say, 'I can 
step lively if anything goes wrong.' So he was 
generally on the ground, receiving reports, keep- 
ing his stars in a congenial mood and serving as 
he alone could as diplomat extraordinary. 

"My Philadelphia debut was accomplished 
without mishap; the performance moving 
smoothly under Sturani's conductorship, and my 
fellow artists contributing their full share. I 
was becoming, I might say, somewhat at home 
and those earlier fears of American annoyances 
had disappeared. I considered myself launched 
in the new country, and a fixture with that partic- 
ular organization. 

"But the bubble of trouble hovered near, 


almost ready to break, and I discovered its pres- 
ence not long after the New Year. That was an 
interesting experience, by the way the celebra- 
tion of my first New Year's Eve in the United 
States. I was not to sing in an opera perform- 
ance that night, which left Mrs. McCormack and 
me free to accept an invitation to be the guests 
of friends, our objective being a popular hotel. 

"It meant rather more to me than the mere 
ushering in of a new year, as the old one passed 
on. If others about us in that room were out 
for jollification I held a deeper feeling. For me 
the glamor of that enlivening display was more 
than an assemblage of men and women celebrat- 
ing an annual event. It reflected, as I surveyed 
the scene, the exquisite feminine toilettes, the 
fortunes in displayed jewels, and the merrymak- 
ing, something symbolic of my career to come. I 
chose, at least, to consider it so and I gave my- 
self unreservedly to an open-eyed dream of on- 
ward travel in my profession, building, I confess, 
a few modest castles out of air. Our host inter- 
rupted me, every little while, to point out some 
personage; but the identifying process over I 
would drift back to that pleasurable occupation 
in which most people indulge." 



The Cyril, with the remainder of the McCor- 
mack family aboard, tooted a warning at that 
moment, and John checked his narrative and 
turned to wave a welcoming hand. We waited 
until Wilkinson had landed the power-boat 
against the float and helped the passengers 
ashore. Cyril and Gwen stopped their sing- 
ing long enough to voice, in their treble duet, 
the experiences of that swift trip, and with that 
were off on a run for the house, Mrs. McCor- 
mack and Miss Foley following at a more leisurely 

"It seems only yesterday," mused John, watch- 
ing the retreating figures of his children, "that I 
was striving to get a foothold in this country. 
Only when I look at them, and recall that they 
were only babies, then, do I realize how time 
flies. After all, Longfellow appreciated what it 
meant when he wrote that wonderful line, 'Life 
is but a day's journey from the cradle to the 

"It was in January," said the tenor, rousing 
himself, "that I was engaged for my first Chi- 
cago appearance. Max Rabinoff, an impresario 
who has since been identified with conspicuous 
ventures the Pavlowa ballet tournees and the 



two American tours of the Boston-National 
Grand Opera Company was the active manager 
of a series of concerts then being given in the 
Chicago Auditorium. Many distinguished art- 
ists, vocalists and instrumentalists, were appear- 
ing at these affairs, and the Chicago Philhar- 
monic Orchestra. 

"The possibilities of the United States now 
impressed me as more important than any I had 
had; for I had been assured: 'If New York ap- 
proves you, McCormack, that means the rest of 
the country.' Philadelphia's endorsement hav- 
ing been obtained, I was anxious to test my re- 
sources before both Chicago and Boston audi- 
ences ; and if they approved, I reasoned, I might 
feel assured. 

"But that Chicago appearance was not wholly 
satisfactory. The audience was not a large one, 
and the many empty seats in that vast space 
proved disconcerting. I had fancied the dupli- 
cation in size of assemblages such as I had 
faced in New York and Philadelphia, and the 
disappointment took the edge off my anticipa- 
tions. Still, I figured, as I stood there on the 
Auditorium stage, I must gain their approval. 
So I sang with all that was in me, one of the most 



satisfying achievements (personally) since I had 
reached America. I shall always be grateful to 
that audience. It responded in recognizing what 
I did. The people appeared to understand. 
Now, when I sing in Chicago, there are never 
seats enough to accommodate those who are con- 
siderate enough to want to hear me sing. 

"The New York season at the Manhattan wore 
on. Each night that I appeared I would stop, at 
the first entrance on the left of the stage, to talk 
with Oscar Hammerstein. He always sat there, 
throughout every performance, the keenest ob- 
server of all ; making mental notes which he after- 
wards turned to account. 

"He had a rare mind, too, and a wit that was 
lightning-like in action. It was his sense of 
humor, I often think, that enabled him to con- 
tinue during that fateful Nineteen Nine and Ten 
season, when he foresaw the end. I was walking 
with him, back stage, one night during an inter- 
mission. The set was undergoing a change, and 
wings were being rushed to their places, drops 
raised and lowered, and properties carried to 
various spots. Oscar, as was his custom, was 
smoking though I believe it was not in strict 
accordance with a city ordinance. The fireman 



detailed to watch that part of the house passed 

"He looked at Hammerstein, then at his burn- 
ing cigar, and fixed the impresario with an accus- 
ing look. 'Never mind,' returned Oscar with 
that ingratiating smile of his, 'it's a fireproof 

"Scores of such stories are told of him ; he was 
a unique man. 

"I feel prejudiced in his favor because, as I 
have said, of his willingness always to give an 
artist a chance. I had never sung in 'Boheme' 
with the Manhattan, and had long wanted to do 
so. But for some reason the opportunity had 
never offered. One morning Hammerstein met 
me at the opera-house. 

' 'Do you know "Boheme" well enough to go 
on in it in Philadelphia to-morrow night?' 

"I replied, without hesitation (though I was 
not thoroughly 'up' on the last act), 'Yes.' 
' 'All right, then, get ready to sing it.' 

"I went to that fine conductor, Guiseppe Stu- 
rani, and confessed my predicament. 'I know 
the notes,' I explained, 'but I am rusty and shall 
need your help to give me the cues.' 

' 'Don't worry, my boy,' replied Sturani, 'just 


keep your eye on me during that last act; you 
don't have to fuss about the acting, Mimi's doing 
the dying; watch, and I'll give you every en- 
trance.' Good old Sturani, he never failed me 

"During the visit to Philadelphia," the tenor 
went on, "a banquet was given for me which I 
thoroughly enjoyed. The arrangements were 
made by Mr. Michael Doyle and among those 
present was the lieutenant-governor of Pennsyl- 
vania, representing the governor, while Arch- 
bishop Ryan was represented by his assistant 
bishop. The orchestra of the opera-house paid 
me the great compliment of coming over, and, 
under the direction of Maestro Sturani, playing 
several numbers at the banquet. 

"After the New York and Philadelphia seasons 
Oscar sent us for a week to Boston where I sang 
three performances with Tetrazzini. Here, too, 
a banquet was given me at the Algonquin Club, 
by some prominent citizens, the mayor making 
the address of welcome." 




"I went aboard the Queenstown-bound liner, 
on an early April day, in Nineteen Ten, with a 
tug of doubt at my heart. The formal sale of the 
Manhattan Opera House artists-contracts and 
belongings to the Metropolitan had not been con- 
summated, yet I knew that my Manhattan days 
were at an end. Hammerstein had already 
sailed for Europe; a despondent figure, as he 
shook hands with me in farewell, his eyes heavy 
with the fatigue of worry. 

"From a selfish viewpoint, I need have had no 
apprehension. The public and the press had re- 
ceived me with every consideration. I had sung 
my first opera role in Boston Edgardo in 
'Lucia,' with Tetrazzini and Sammarco on 
March twenty-ninth. The Boston Theatre was 
too small for the audience that tried to get in ; and 
there was a repetition of this at 'The Daugh- 
ter of the Regiment' performance two evenings 



later, and the presentation of Traviata' on April 

"My reputation I say it in all modesty 
had begun to swing out over the country, 
thanks to the interest of the newspapers and 
magazines. Their 'features,' as they are 
called, and the interviews, so widely circulated, 
had their effect. The American press is a 
marvelous institution: able, fearless (not right, 
invariably, of course, for it is only human in its 
liability to err), aggressive and tireless in its 
efforts to progress. If it is not one hundred per 
cent, perfect which nothing in life is the ex- 
ceptions to approximate efficiency such as I men- 
tion are relatively few. And to the press of 
America, daily, weekly and monthly, my debt is 
large. In my humble way, I may have served as 
useful 'copy'; I realize that had I not been that 
the editors would not have troubled. Neverthe- 
less, without such publicity as they gratuitously 
conferred, my reputation would have been slower 
in the making. The word of mouth route is ef- 
fective, but not so swift a process for the dissem- 
ination of fact as the printed phrase of generous 

"But I never employed a press agent. Not 


that I do not entertain respect for the profession 
and an admiration for its members' imaginative 
facility which will never cease. It was, perhaps, 
only a whim to decline such services as were 
proffered; or, mayhap, a subconscious warning to 
leave the thing to the editors and reporters and 
special writers themselves. For, if the truth be 
laid bare, I have always believed that the Amer- 
ican spirit is prone to seek that which keeps to 
itself, while at the same time it shows a consist- 
ent tendency to push aside that which urges con- 
sideration in a forward way. 

"If you merit space in news or feature columns 
you may rest assured that editorial discernment 
will land you there. If one doesn't belong 
well, clever and persistent publicity agents will 
often secure a bit of that valuable space. But in 
such circumstances the subject is a marked man, 
or woman. And gradually, in the course of 
time, the stories of 'Jones' or 'Smith' fall from 
under editorial eyes into the handiest waste- 

We had wandered from the pier to the beach, 
and John seated himself there, on a large rock, 
and picking up stones tossed them absently into 
the water. The sun was dropping nearer the 



horizon line and a freshening breeze began whip- 
ping the surface of the Sound into gently churn- 
ing waves. 

"It was such a day as this," said John, "that I 
landed at Fishguard after the Manhattan season, 
with Mrs. McCormack, and very eager, too, to get 
ashore to Cyril and Gwen, and our waiting 
friends. For it was next door to home, you 
know, and we had been absent for six months. 
I'm nearly an American citizen, now, and I feel 
that I belong here. But there's something about 
the land a man is born in that grips and holds 
him fast as it should. I never catch sight of 
Ireland's shoreline that my breathing doesn't 
quicken and my heart pound a little faster every 
time. And when my time comes to die, I hope it 
may be in that country where my first cry was 
given and that what is left of me, in an earthly 
way, may rest in Irish soil. 

"Mrs. McCormack and I went as quickly as 
we could to our Hampstead home. Cyril and 
Gwen were waiting for us. The journey from 
Fishguard had been too slow, and the rasping of 
air-brakes for the stops were no sedatives to our 

"But it was good, at length, to be in our own 


place with those near us from whom we had been 
so long separated. Miss Mary Scott, Sir John's 
sister, was soon on the telephone to welcome us 
and learn the latest news since she had last heard. 
In all these years we have had no friend more true 
than Miss Scott; none whose friendship held all 
one likes to contemplate friendship to be. 

"To this day, though circumstances prevent 
the frequent personal meetings we should like, 
she never fails to send us a letter by each boat 
carrying mail. When we are at Hampstead she 
calls us every morning over the telephone. 

"And during the Covent Garden days I always 
saw her before a performance. In the early 
afternoon Sir John would send one of his car- 
riages for me, and I would be driven to his home. 
There, in his study, along about three o'clock, a 
servant would bring a basket containing oysters, 
a perfectly broiled steak and other edibles with 
a little bottle of chablis. 

"These thoughtful courtesies, which help to 
make life, had a heartening effect I will not en- 
deavor to describe. They were resumed upon 
our return home that spring, and after a brief 
rest I began my Covent Garden season. On the 
days when I did not appear in opera Miss Scott 



and I would often sing duets. She had a sympa- 
thetic soprano, and her sister played accompani- 
ments well. Occasionally her brother Walter, 
who owns the Rode Stradivarius violin, would 
join us, playing the obligates. 

"I well remember, also, the facility of Sir John 
Murray Scott's elder sister, Miss Alicia, as a com- 
poser. She knew the voice and its possibilities, 
and her songs were always 'singable'; with no 
impossible intervals or straining for effects. 
One of the best she wrote was 'Within the Garden 
of My Heart,' which I sang at the Boosey Ballad 
Concerts and made a record for with the Victor 
Talking Machine Company." 

The news of the transfer, to the Metropolitan, 
of all the Manhattan operatic effects, including 
the contracts with the artists, was conveyed to 
McCormack through the daily press. He was 
most amazed when he read the cabled account. 
He had never heard of singers being bought and 
sold like so much cattle; it seemed almost a re- 
turn to the slavery days. 

His annoyance had moderated, however, when 
he received a cablegram from Andreas Dippel, the 
first general manager of the Chicago-Philadel- 
phia Grand Opera Company (which consisted of 



the nucleus of the old Manhattan) stating that 
his company wished to avail itself of McCor- 
mack's services for the approaching season. 

"I tried to take as much rest as was possible, 
that summer," said the tenor. "But I gave two 
concerts in Dublin, where I am glad to say the 
people welcomed me enthusiastically; for Dublin 
is an intensely musical city. 

"The Dublin audiences are some of the most 
discriminating I have ever appeared before. 
Their knowledge of opera almost equals that of 
the Italian audiences. -They have two seasons of 
opera in English every year which are splendidly 
patronized, and each performance is followed 
with an enthusiasm I have seldom witnessed else- 
where. Every person is there to enjoy the 
music, and although these seasons are great social 
events, this is merely secondary. One of the 
most interesting things about the opera seasons in 
Dublin is the fact that there is at every perform- 
ance between the acts an improvised concert at 
which the well-known local celebrities are called 
upon to sing, which they do with a good will it 
really is a pleasure to witness. In my early days 
in Dublin I have sung at several of those perform- 
ances. The caustic wit of these Dublin 'gallery 



boys' is well known. I well remember a criticism 
of a tenor whose high notes were a little 'tight.' 
He was singing some operatic aria and the top 
note was not to the satisfaction 'of one of those 
self-constituted critics, who remarked in a loud 
voice, 'loosen his boots, and let his high notes 
come free.' Yet, the Dublin audiences are very 
discriminating, and eminently just. One of 
these days, when we have won the war, and I have 
made money enough to provide for my family, 
and a little bit more, I shall use that 'little bit 
more' to establish a conservatory of music in 
Dublin. And I will get the best professors in all 
branches of music for the Irish people, whose 
talents so deserve the best training possible to 
give them. 

"I also gave much time to preparing for a joint 
concert tour I had arranged to make in September 
with that master- violinist, Fritz Kreisler. 

"I have since come to know Kreisler inti- 
mately, and great as my admiration is for him as 
an artist it does not exceed my affection for him 
as a man. It is an opinion in which my entire 
family shares, and to Cyril and Gwen he is 'Uncle 
Fritz.' Incomparable violinist that he is, with 
qualities of tone, technique, heart and mind 



which make him one of the most distinguished 
musicians of his time, Kreisler was then as now 
a supreme artist. He was sensitive in the ex- 
treme, yet essentially virile. And he was, and 
is, the sort of man to whom one felt instinctively 
drawn. To give him one's confidence is the most 
natural thing of which I can think. 

"Kreisler and I appeared together in concerts 
for about four weeks, and my association with 
him was the beginning of a beneficial influence 
which grew steadily and still continues. I may 
say that I trace my first marked advance in classic 
song, so-called, from that time. Fritz was a con- 
structive critic in the true sense, and during that 
tour gave me a piece of advice I have never for- 

' 'John,' he said after one of our concerts, 
'always learn the music as the composer wrote it, 
be absolutely letter perfect, so to speak, and then 
put your own interpretation upon it.' 

"In October Mrs. McCormack, the children 
and I sailed for New York. We reached Chicago 
the latter part of the month, and on November 
tenth, Nineteen Ten, I made my opera debut in 
that city as Rodolfo in 'La Boheme.' ' 

John does not deny that he was less happy, 


under the new order of things operatic, than he 
had been when the company was the Manhattan, 
with Oscar Hammerstein at the helm. He ad- 
mired his Chicago public that I know and en- 
joyed singing to it, during the ten weeks he spent 
in that energetic city. 

"It is a vital city," he told me, "the very air 
seemingly charged with dynamic energy. One 
got it from the people passing in the streets ; that 
radiation of excess physical strength. It is an 
American city, and as different from New York 
(which is cosmopolitan, and therefore, to my way 
of thinking essentially non-American) as water 
is from fire." 

"But ... you liked the town?" 

"I really cannot truthfully answer," he said 
with his customary straightforwardness, "for I 
did not come to know it as I do now. That 
which I saw, and the people I met and passed in 
the course of my work, all impressed me as the 
right sort. A buoyant people, self-confident and 
taking a pride in their city. They had musical 
perceptions, also, less presumptuousness than 
one might expect from so successful an array of 
humans, and were always fair. 

"The citizens took a proper pride in their first 


permanent opera company, and gave us com- 
mensurate support. There was a financial 
deficit, which the public-spirited guarantors made 
up, but when one realizes that the quantity of 
opera was materially greater than the city had 
been accustomed to it was, perhaps, too much 
to expect a larger patronage than we got. It 
takes time to build a self-sustaining clientele, 
in anything, but Chicago did its loyal best; and 
the day is not so far distant when the income 
from a ten weeks' season will be equivalent to its 

"The Philadelphia part of our season was in- 
teresting, for it was like meeting old friends. 
There were two divisions of performances: Chi- 
cago having its season divided into two portions 
(our opening and middle parts being held there) , 
with Philadelphia taking the second and the last 

"We gave 'Natoma' that season, in which I 
created the leading tenor role. I also sang 
Cavaradossi in 'Tosca,' the part of Hoffmann in 
'The Tales of Hoffmann,' and the other characters 
with which I had been identified in New York, 
Philadelphia and Boston under Oscar Hammer- 
stein's direction. The Chicago-Philadelphia 



personnel of artists was practically unchanged 
from that of the Manhattan company's, and Cleo- 
fonte Campanini held the post of general musical 

"In December I sang in Boston, appearing 
twice in 'Cavalleria Rusticana' and three times in 
'Boheme.' My reception by Bostonians has al- 
ways been cordial and most enthusiastic. I re- 
gard them as discriminating judges of music and 
musicians, and quick to show how they feel. If 
I have a favorite audience in America it is in 

"It was in January that I sang my first New 
York concert. I also appeared, a little later in 
the season, in other cities in what Dippel called 
a tour of his International Concert Company. It 
consisted of Carolina White (soprano), repre- 
senting America ; Marguerite Sylva (soprano) , as 
the French representative ; Nicola Zerola (tenor) , 
for Italy ; Rosa Olitzka (contralto) , appearing for 
Russia, and myself for Ireland. 

"During this International Concert Company 
tour I met a gentleman who has become very 
closely identified with my career. I refer to Mr. 
Charles Wagner. I was so taken with his frank 
and honest personality that in ten minutes we 



had fixed up a business deal which has been to 
our mutual advantage. 

"His associate, Mr. Denis F. McSweeney, had 
been a McCormack 'fan' from the old Manhattan 
days, and I strongly advised seeing Mac's 
natural aptitude for the managerial business 
that he and Wagner get together. This they 
eventually did, and they make a splendid combi- 
nation. I, of course, think they are the greatest 
managers in America. 

"And whilst on the subject of my management, 
I wish to state here how grateful I am to them for 
their most dignified presentation of me. No one 
knows better than I how much their splendid co- 
operation has aided me in my hard climb towards 
success. Their kindly advice, their unswerving 
loyalty, their unshakable belief in my abilities 
and, above all, their absolute honesty in all our 
business relationship have been a pillar of 
strength to me. I want my public to know that 
I am grateful to them." 




"Australia is a country," said McCormack, 
"which I deeply admire. Some of my most sub- 
stantial successes were gained there, and the 
people have treated me as though I were one of 
their nationality. I had never been in Australia, 
so when Nellie Melba invited me to appear as her 
leading tenor in a season of opera to cover many 
weeks, to be divided between Sydney and Mel- 
bourne, I accepted. 

"It had been a strenuous year, for after the 
Chicago-Philadelphia opera appearances and the 
International Concert Company tour, I went di- 
rect to Covent Garden where I remained actively 
engaged until the last week in July. I should 
have liked to 'loaf,' because I strongly advise giv- 
ing the singing voice a complete and lengthy rest 
once a year. My engagements, however, for- 
bade until Mrs. McCormack and I went aboard 
the boat at Marseilles, bound for Sydney, 



"Before leaving for Australia, however, I had 
the fortune to sing at a gala performance given 
in Covent Garden in honor of the coronation of 
King George V. All London was a-quiver with 
anticipation and the choice seats for the corona- 
tion performance sold for ten guineas each, with 
tickets only for those whose names were on a 
selected list. 

"To my mind Covent Garden is the most per- 
fectly appointed and efficiently administered 
opera house in the world. Such gala per- 
formances as I mention are a feast for eyes, as 
for the ears. Decorations costing fifteen to 
twenty thousand dollars transform the interior 
of Covent Garden into a place of splendor, con- 
sistently artistic splendor. And the center half- 
dozen boxes are made into one, sufficient to ac- 
commodate twenty-five or thirty persons, for 
royal use. 

"Every one of consequence, who was physi- 
cally able to attend, was present at Covent Gar- 
den on that occasion. All the royal family were 
there; also the entire Corps Diplomatique, with 
their attaches, military and naval officers of every 
accredited nation, in full uniform, and the rest 



of those in London whose positions justified their 

"The starting hour was late; nine-twenty 
o'clock. At this time the king entered the royal 
box, which was a signal for the audience to rise. 
Then the orchestra played 'God Save the King.' 
Within an hour and a half the celebration was 
over which meant that the performance con- 
sisted of acts from different operas. 

"There was plenty of what we hear described 
as 'atmosphere' to this performance. In dig- 
nity and substance I doubt whether its equal 
could be provided anywhere else on earth. Yet 
there were touches of the sort we call 'human,' 
which I observed. For instance: when I made 
my first entrance my attention was attracted, 
instantly, to a box at my left. What appeared 
a searchlight caught my gaze, and kept it fixed 
upon that object a strange, utterly inexplicable 
one, I thought. Gradually, as I became more 
accustomed to the brightness, which may have set 
my sight from normal focus, I was able to deter- 
mine what the odd light meant. If you will be- 
lieve it, it was nothing more than a huge corsage 
of diamonds (which must have been worth a 



fabulous fortune) worn by an East Indian prince; 
a fitting adornment for the occasion, which had 
no doubt been donned with as much indifference 
as I would put on a white scarf as part of my 
evening dress." 

We were on the veranda of the New York Ath- 
letic Club house, at Travers Island. John sat 
facing the sweep of water and small islands 
which fronts that side, and his animation indi- 
cated his interest in the part of the narrative he 
was beginning. 

"That trip to Australia was one of the most 
interesting in my life," he said. "Through the 
Straits of Messina we went, catching a view of 
Mount Etna in eruption; on to Port Said, 
the back door of the world; continuing, 
through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, in 
heat that makes a New York heat wave 
feel like an autumn-day; thence to Colombo, a 
real Paradise. We stopped overnight at Gaul 
Face Hotel. Next morning we proceeded to 
Freemantle and thence over the Australian 
Bight, which is supposed to be the roughest sea 
in the world, for across it blows a wind that comes 
straight from the South Pole without interrup- 



"We reached Adelaide in a mood of joyous an- 
ticipation, for I had been looking forward to meet- 
ing Cardinal Moran, of Sydney. He was a 
Prince of the Church of whom I had heard a great 
deal; and I had learned that His Eminence had 
expressed a wish to meet the 'Irish minstrel boy,' 
as he called me. But I never was privileged to 
see Cardinal Moran ; he died the day I arrived in 
Australia, and our trip by train from Adelaide to 
Sydney was not altogether a happy one. I felt 
as sad as if I had known Cardinal Moran per- 

"The rehearsals for the opening performance 
were intensely interesting. Mme. Melba was 
like a child with a new toy, and insistent that 
everything be done to allow the presentations to 
be made without a hitch. The soprano did 
everything to promote a spirit of harmony among 
us, and it is no exaggeration to speak of us as 'a 
happy operatic family' ; it was very like the feel- 
ing that prevailed at the Manhattan, in New 

"The premiere performance was of 'Traviata,' 
and I consider it the best one in which I ever took 
part. The audience was said to have been the 
most representative ever assembled in Sydney. 



It included nearly every one of importance 
from the Governor-General and his staff down. 
Lord Denman was then Governor-General, a 
courtly gentleman, who took a lively interest in 
all things Australian and was deservedly most 
popular with the people. He came often to our 
performances with his charming wife and from 
time to time invited some of the artists to Gov- 
ernment House to entertain them there. Mrs. 
McCormack and I enjoyed their hospitality on 
several occasions. The occasion marked Mme. 
Melba's first appearance in opera before her na- 
tive people, who were as anxious that she should 
triumph as she was herself. 

"And triumph she did, as she deserved. 
Mme. Melba is a great artist. I never tired 
studying her methods; to be near her, and 
observe what she did, was an education for a 
singer. That night she was superb; and the 
supporting principals, the orchestra and the con- 
ductor (Maestro Angelini, a thorough musician 
and a man of real charm) did their share in con- 
tributing to the success. 

"The ten weeks' season in Sydney was notable 
in the history of opera in Australia. The per- 
formances were made events, and the attendances 



were both large and composed of those who con- 
stituted desirable audiences. We all spared no 
effort, individually, which might aid in creating 
the effects desired. No petty jealousies arose to 
disturb our serenity; and nothing of serious na- 
ture interfered with our endeavors. 

"Both the people and the press accepted me, 
almost unconditionally, from the outset. It was 
gratifying to find my popularity growing, which, 
of course, stimulated me to the best efforts of 
which I was capable. I was fortunate, also, in 
being in good health during the eighteen weeks of 
opera in Sydney and Melbourne; I disappointed 
only once. And that brings to my mind an inci- 
dent which will show the spirit of good will exist- 
ing between the principal artists. 

"I was to have sung the title role in 'Faust,' 
but indisposition prevented. When the audi- 
ence learned of this they began to chant: 4 We 
want John McCormack, we want John McCor- 
mack' and they continued this, in a good- 
natured way, during the first act of the opera. 
The one who told me about it was the tenor who 
sang in my stead, and we laughed together over 
the matter. 

"The Sydney season closed brilliantly, and was 


declared to have touched an exceptional artistic 
standard. Nor do I wonder that this was the 
verdict. The same care was shown by Mme. 
Melba in the choice of artists for the small parts 
as of those for the more important ones ; and this 
resulted in an ensemble which would have done 
credit to any opera house in the world. My per- 
sonal acceptance gave me both pride and confi- 
dence, and when we gave our Melbourne pre- 
miere I was prepared, in mood and vocal con- 
dition, to give the best of which I was capable. 

"The reception we received in Mme. Melba's 
home city was so enthusiastic that I can think of 
but one appropriate word adequately to describe 
it: a 'riot.' News of our achievements in Sydney 
had preceded our opening, and the assemblage 
came prepared to hear and see an unusual per- 
formance. From their demeanor they must have 
been thoroughly satisfied. Mme. Melba, of 
course, triumphed unequivocally, and received a 
demonstration such as few artists have had in 
their careers. The most interested member of 
that audience was Mme. Melba's father. He sat 
in the first row, in a state of rapt attention 
throughout the performance; he must have felt 
proud of his daughter. 



"Our repertoire, as in Sydney, was sufficiently 
extensive. The operas in which I sang were 
'Faust,' 'Traviata,' 'Romeo and Juliet,' 'Madame 
Butterfly,' Tosca,' 'Rigoletto' and 'Boheme.' " 

McCormack, at this juncture, allowed himself 
a smile. It preluded something of an amusing 
nature which he presently related. 

"The one humorous incident of the season 
occurred during a performance of 'Boheme.' 
We had a soprano; a nice voice, but she hadn't 
had enough experience with the role of Mimi to 
render her letter-perfect in either music or action. 
Yet, circumstances made it necessary to cast her 
for this appearance, one evening. You remem- 
ber my telling about Maestro Sturani giving me 
the music entrance cues during the last act of 
'Boheme' in Philadelphia? Well, I had the ad- 
vantage, on that occasion, of at least knowing the 
notes. This young woman had scarcely a bow- 
ing acquaintance, during that part of Puccini's 
opera, with any of the first soprano's notes. 

"In the love scene in the last act between Mimi 

and Rodolfo I discovered my colleague getting 
deeper and deeper into musical difficulties. She 
began to skip whole measures, and mumble and 
drop her voice. Now a duet is satisfactory to the 



hearers only when both parts are sung; but as 
the soprano increased her floundering there was 
nothing for me to do (aided occasionally by the 
basso) but to sing both tenor and soprano music 
where the notes permitted. Briefly, I made 
love to myself during that portion of the opera, 
and found amusement in so doing. 

"The season closed, in Melbourne, wonder- 
fully that just describes it. The stage, after 
the third act of 'Boheme,' was a rose garden, 
made so from the floral contributions of admirers. 
Mme. Melba addressed her hearers, showing how 
deeply she was touched by their tribute ; and she 
did not neglect to praise her fellow artists. 

"I never have so completely enjoyed partici- 
pating in a season of opera. The people of both 
cities where I had so frequently appeared took me 
to their hearts. My type of voice was what they 
seemed to admire in a tenor. They do not care 
much, in Australia, for shouters. A sympa- 
thetic voice appeals to them most, and is pre- 
ferred to the big, booming instrument. 

"In the midst of preparations to proceed to the 
United States, where I had concert engage- 
ments to fulfill, I was approached by Mr. South- 
well, a concert manager, suggesting that I con- 



sent to give two programmes in Sydney and one 
in Melbourne. As admirers had already begged 
that I sing to them I was in a responsive mood, 
and therefore commissioned Mr. Southwell to 
make the arrangements. 

"These concert appearances filled my cup to 
overflowing. I had had ovations in opera, but 
they were no more pronounced than those given 
me on the concert platform. The newspapers 
were enthusiastic; and directly there arose 
controversies as to whether I was superior in one 
form of musical entertainment or in the other. 
So intense were the discussions in the press 
and out of it that the people allied with the 
respective issues divided themselves into two 
camps. I never knew which side, if either, set- 
tled the question to the majority's satisfaction. 

"It was just prior to my Australian concert 
appearances that I met a young man who subse- 
quently became identified with me in my career, 
a violinist of admirable talents and a splendid 
youth who has since heeded the call of his coun- 
try and joined the Royal Air Force: I mean 
Donald McBeath. He was sent, with a letter of 
introduction from Mother Xavier of the Lewis- 
ham Hospital, to me at my house in Melbourne. 



He was a tall, lanky boy of sixteen. He played 
for me an Adagio, by Ries, and splendidly; I be- 
came immediately interested and my interest has 
not abated. 

"Mother Xavier, whose lovable character had 
made her adored throughout Australia, was ex- 
ercising a sort of protecting guidance over Don- 
ald. His playing impressed me sufficiently to 
engage him for my three concerts ; and I was glad 
this was so, because Mother Xavier did so much 
for others that any request she made the people 
always took delight in granting. Yes, and there 
was yet another reason. 

"This good woman came from a town only 
twenty miles from my own Athlone Mullingar, 
in County Westmeath. I had been to see her, 
and was so taken with the work she was doing 
that I asked if I could not, in some way, be of 

"She smiled, and answered: 'If you could 
come to the hospital and sing a few of those won- 
derful songs for the nuns.' It was such a little 
thing, I thought, for her to ask, though she did 
not appear to think so. I quickly arranged to 
have Donald McBeath go with me, and Mother 
Xavier brought her nuns together. The pleasure 



these good people derived from that concert was 
many times worth the slight effort caused in giv- 
ing it, so much so that I shall never go to Aus- 
tralia that I shall not give a concert for Mother 
Xavier and her nuns. 

"I never had a more appreciative audience 
than this little body of workers in a noble cause. 
I'll concede that they may have been a trifle prej- 
udiced, still they seemed discriminating, for they 
were enthusiastic over the better music no less 
than over the ballads. 

"Sailing away from the Antipodes I could not 
refrain from pondering over my experiences of 
those five preceding months. Rewards had come 
to me, most bounteously; and I was unutterably 

"Wonderful as the trip from Marseilles to 
Adelaide had been, another, scarcely less wonder- 
ful, lay ahead. Past the Fiji Islands we steamed ; 
thence, under a canopy of clouds, to Honolulu 
garden spot of the Pacific. And it was there 
that I was first made acquainted with that native 
instrument, the iikelele, which has since become 
so popular. 

"On a winter's morning, in February, Nine- 
teen Twelve, we landed in Victoria, British Co- 



lumbia. We entered a cab, and the driver took 
us to the Empress Hotel. It was only a few 
blocks from the dock, but this shrewd young man 
went about, through street after street, until he 
felt he had given us ride enough to warrant the 
fee he intended to demand. 

'Two dollars,' he blandly remarked, when 
we stepped out before the hotel. 

"'What for?' I asked. 

" For the ride,' he retorted. 

"But isn't that rather steep?' I wanted to 

'Well,' remarked the cabby, 'I paid two dol- 
lars for a Victor record of yours this morning, 
and it's only fair to get even.' 

"What did you do?" I asked, laughing. 

"What could I do?" said John. "He had 
me, and knew that he had. So I paid him his 
two dollars." 




McCormack came eastward across the Ameri- 
can continent, that late winter and spring of 
Nineteen Twelve, by easy stages. He sang 
thirty-four concerts, and according to newspaper 
accounts they were important affairs. The 
tenor's return to the United States was welcomed 
in each city where he appeared by a large audi- 
ence, which seemed happy to renew a musical 

At the conclusion of this part of his tour he 
went to London, and resumed his annual ap- 
pearances in Covent Garden. His voice and his 
artistry had developed ; he was twenty-eight, and 
his experience and his travels had not only made 
him a more convincing singer but had broad- 
ened him, too, in knowledge and the understand- 
ing of life. 

In the autumn of that year, after a summer at 
Hampstead with his family, McCormack pre- 


pared for concerts in the United States under the 
Wagner management. But each leave-taking of 
those closest to him grew more difficult. Home- 
sickness continued to be a malady he could not 
elude; yet there was a comfort he took in the 
thought of the companionship which Mrs. Mc- 
Cormack had in her sister, Miss Josephine Foley, 
and in Cyril and Gwenny. 

"For," as an intimate friend of theirs told me, 
"in the McCormack home Miss Foley has 
thoughts of all others before herself. She is 
'Auntie,' and indispensable; a buoyant nature 
that shows in the upturned corners of an expres- 
sive mouth, and a smile eternal in eyes that look 
frankly into yours when she greets you. A 
personality one feels at once, with charm of man- 
ner in which sincerity dwells. The visitor ob- 
serves these things instantly; and returning 
again to the McCormack household becomes con- 
vinced of them the more. So, if she be momen- 
tarily absent, she is missed and by Mrs. Mc- 
Cormack and the children and John, even more 
than by the guest, because Miss Foley has a 
faculty of making things pleasant, in ways that 
are gratefully smooth." 

St. Louis marked the launching of that Nine- 


teen Twelve season. McCormack and Wagner, 
his new manager, both had a desire to begin in 
the city where the inexperienced Irish boy had 
sung to appreciative audiences during the Expo- 
sition, more than eight years before. The as- 
semblage that gathered in the Odeon packed the 
place to the doors. There were a score of en- 
cores, with men and women applauding until too 
weary to continue. 

Each subsequent concert was but a repetition 
of that which moved the St. Louis throng to its 
demonstration. The McCormack hold upon the 
people grew, and with it his prestige. He was 
a personality, with fame spreading everywhere. 
I recall that it was about this time that the serious 
musicians and the ablest of the music critics 
recognized the McCormack voice and art as things 
of outstanding importance. Within a scant three 
years he was justifying the promise which dis- 
cerning people at his first Manhattan appear- 
ances had believed that he held. 

But had John been less the artist he was, had 
he been in the slighest degree unequal to touch- 
ing the hearts of his hearers, he must have 
blighted the large hopes cherished for him. It 
is incontestible evidence of his qualities that he 



measured, in those days, up to the standard the 
people were brought to believe was his. 

The music critics of recognized authority be- 
gan to discover all this. But the programmes 
John offered confused them, because his re- 
sources and his unquestioned sincerity admitted 
of his offering more songs of so-called classic 
mould during a concert than were forthcoming. 
They failed to see (I know that I did) the pur- 
pose of John's methods, (which he has explained 
in another chapter) : that the simplest songs 
must be sung, almost exclusively, for some time 
before those of finer character, in considerable 
number, can with safety be offered. 

It is only additional proof of McCormack's 
faith in himself, and the course he was pursuing, 
that he continued steadfast in his mission to take 
to the people the songs they could understand 
the songs they longed to hear. Yet with each 
reappearance in a city (and in many, that sea- 
son, he sang twice and three times) he would 
introduce just a little more of the better music 
he was so judiciously bringing into its place. 

Every important city heard John McCormack 
between the fall of Nineteen Twelve and the late 
spring of Nineteen Thirteen. The largest audi- 



toriums possible to obtain were filled as often 
as he appeared in them, and the people went 
away clamoring for more. 

Again the tenor returned to London, for his 
Covent Garden annual engagement; and once 
more the public and the newspapers recorded the 
advance he had made in his art. In opera, as 
well as in concert, he continued steadily to prog- 
ress, and the gratifying part of it was in the 
general recognition that obtained. 

"That summer was one of happiness, happi- 
ness in being at home with my family, in the 
study I was engaged upon, the anticipation of 
my approaching Australasian concert tour, and 
my participation in affairs of absorbing interest. 
I had corresponded, some months before, with 
J. & N. Tait, a firm of established and highly 
respected Australian concert managers, and ar- 
rangements had been made for an extended tour, 
through Australasia. 

"It was during this summer," continued the 
tenor, "that I sang at a concert given in aid of 
the Ovada Bazaar, held in Dublin." 

We were on a golf course during this part of 
the narrative. I was curious to pin a story I had 
heard: that John had broken down when he sang 



"Mother Machree" at a concert where his own 
mother sat in a hall, listening to him. He smiled 
when the question came, and teed his ball. 

"It's not true," he declared. "The time and 
place where I sang the song and to mother 
was that concert I just mentioned. Mary An- 
derson was the moving spirit of the Ovada Ba- 
zaar, and she made a remarkable speech. When 
I sang 'Mother Machree,' which happened to be 
for the first time in Ireland, I confess to being 
deeply moved. But mother was nearer to tears 
than I. It was, I believe, the most eloquent 
interpretation of the song I had ever given ; there 
was reason enough in my mother's being there 
and I think the audience sensed it, and under- 
stood the reason. Two years before, in San 
Francisco, when I first sang 'Mother Machree,' 
I felt a lump in my throat; the poem and the 
music always affect me." 

John and I walked down the golf course to- 
wards the spot where his ball had gone. His 
friend Dick Lounsbery, with the two caddies, 
were beating the grass where it lay hidden. 
They located it as we drew near, and John re- 
marked he "guessed" he would have to use his 



"It isn't a spoon you want here," retorted the 
bright young man, "what you'll need are a knife 
and fork." 

John laughed, but after his shot, made ade- 
quate rejoinder. He was not far from the green, 
for that drive had gone a distance. He ap- 
proached like a professional, sending the little 
white sphere to within ten feet of the cup. His 
partner had been overruning the greens, and 
John found his chance. 

"That's the way," he exulted; "anyone can 
smash 'em double-forte, but it takes a golfer to 
hit them mezza-voce." After holding out the 
tenor continued with his narrative. 

"Having engaged McSweeney as my personal 
representative for the Australasian tour, I sent 
him on well in advance of my arrival in Sydney, 
where it was planned I should give my opening 
concert on September 4. Shortly after his ar- 
rival there, McSweeney cabled that a small-pox 
scare had Sydney by the heels. He informed 
me that nearly all the theatres were being affected 
by this fear of the epidemic, but that in spite of 
this the feeling was that it would not diminish 
the attendances at my proposed concerts. 

"I therefore sailed, as before, from Marseilles ; 


taking with me Mrs. McCormack, Miss Foley, 
Vincent O'Brien, and Cyril and Gwendolyn. 
The trip was a second enchanting experience in 
beholding those sights I have previously men- 
tioned. Mrs. McCormack and Miss Foley found 
a delight similar to mine, and the children, in 
so far as they were able, were interested. 

"Shortly after arriving at our destination, the 
Mayor of Sydney at a reception given me said 
he was glad I had reached the city, because he 
felt that no one would do more to allay the fears 
of the people than the Irish singer 'who had al- 
ready proven how deeply he was able to move the 
people with his rare singing of songs everyone 
wanted to hear.' 

"That, naturally, encouraged me to do every- 
thing in my power to satisfy my public. The 
Messrs. Tait, and McSweeney, assured me that I 
was certain to have all the patronage the Town 
Hall would accommodate; and they were right. 
But the opening concert found me half sick from 
the effects of the vaccination to which it had been 
considered wise I should submit. I was in that 
condition, though it was not generally known, 
throughout the three succeeding appearances. 

"Donald McBeath, who had improved in his 

Vincent O'Brien, Donald McBeath and John McCormack 


violin playing, appeared with me, and acquitted 
himself most creditably. The newspapers all as- 
serted that my singing was better, even, than it 
had been when I first sang in Sydney, on my 
earlier visit. As for the audiences, I was truly 
overwhelmed, not only by their demonstrations 
during and after the concerts, but when I ap- 
peared to get into the vehicle which should carry 
me to my hotel. 

"It was at one of these Sydney concerts that 
Cyril and Gwen heard me sing in public for the 
first time. They sat, with their mother, in the 
audience; and from time to time I looked to see 
how my endeavors were affecting them. I was 
anxious most naturally to see the effect produced 
on their youthful minds, and I can't tell you how 
delighted I was to watch the rapt attention they 
paid to each song. But Cyril was disappointed 
because I had not sung his favorite "Molly Bran- 
nigan.' He came with Mrs. McCormack and 
Gwen to my dressing-room, as the audience was 
leaving the hall, and expressed his childish re- 
gret. I was sorry, too; but it happened that 
Vincent O'Brien was ill. This made it neces- 
sary to get a substitute accompanist, who had not 
had time to rehearse the music of Cyril's pet 



song. At a later concert, however, the boy had 
his wish fulfilled ; he told me, on the way home, 
that it sounded better in the 'large place' than in 
our music-room, which was where he had always 
heard it." 

Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Rockhamp- 
ton, Newcastle, Towoomba, Bendigo and Gee- 
long welcomed the tenor with no diminution of 
the enthusiasm which Sidney audiences had 
shown. He gave several concerts in each city, 
and still the people continued going to them 
usually in numbers too large to permit all gain- 
ing admission to the hall. 

At Adelaide, after the farewell programme, a 
crowd numbering several hundred gathered about 
the stage door. When McCormack came out a 
spokesman made his way to us and said: "Give 
us one more matinee, John, to-morrow." 

"But there's no time to let the people know," 
replied the tenor. "Time enough," retorted the 
spokesman. So John consented. His an- 
nouncements were carried in the morning news- 
papers, and before noon every ticket in the house 
had been sold. 

"It was like that throughout the tour," con- 
tinued John. "The receptions I got at the stage 



doors as I went out from a concert became a reg- 
ular occurrence. And the night of my Sydney 
farewell the enthusiasts assembled and, as I came 
from the hall, began singing Tor He's a Jolly 
Good Fellow.' The people used to crowd round 
my car and ask for souvenirs, one young lady go- 
ing so far as to steal the cigarette I was smoking 
and take it as a souvenir. I wonder if she still 
has it." 

A humorous incident happened at the closing 
Melbourne concert. McCormack's final song 
was Balfe's "Then You'll Remember Me," from 
"The Bohemian Girl." The words in the last 
phrase are those of the title of the aria. They 
had barely died away when a man called out, 
from the balcony, "How could we ever forget you, 
John!" a charming compliment, you will ad- 

"A most loyal people," continued the tenor, 
as he recalled those enthusiasts in that part of 
the world, "and I know of none to whom I would 
rather sing. Everyone was so considerate. I 
shall never forget Lillian Nordica, who was pres- 
ent at one of my Melbourne concerts. I dis- 
covered her, early in the performance, among 
the audience, stunning in appearance. And I 



know that her presence stimulated me to my ut- 
most to win her appreciation. I was touched on 
receiving from her a laurel wreath, nearly three 
feet high; and some time after, when I met her 
at a state ball at Government House, where she 
certainly looked every inch a queen, she said that 
my singing of a song she had never fancied, 'Kath- 
leen Mavourneen,' was one of the most satisfy- 
ing interpretations she had ever heard. 

"It was in Sydney to go from music to medi- 
cine that I met one of the ablest physicians I 
ever knew. He was Dr. Herbert Marks, and he 
helped me during some throat difficulty I had 
because of the climate there. One of his reme- 
dies was some oily preparation, which could be 
dropped upon a handkerchief and inhaled. One 
evening, during the summer following, at a Co- 
vent Garden performance of 'Madame Butterfly,' 
chancing to look down from the stage at the 
nearby portion of the audience, I caught sight 
of Dr. Marks sitting in the front row. It was 
a complete surprise, for I did not know that he 
had contemplated a trip to England. 

"In a spirit of greeting, and reminder of those 
Sydney days, I took from my pocket a handker- 
chief, and held it to my face. The doctor be- 



came convulsed at this, and sat silently shaking 
in his seat for several seconds. 

"But Mrs. McCormack, who was also in the 
assemblage, had also learned of Dr. Marks's 
presence there, and here is a coincidence. She 
had barely received word from home that Cyril 
had been taken ill, and that 'Auntie' was en- 
deavoring, unsuccessfully, to reach our family 
physician. So Mrs. McCormack sent word to 
Dr. Marks, asking that he come to her in the 
foyer which he did. 

"She took him direct to Hampstead, where he 
found Cyril to be ailing, though not seriously. 
He attended the lad, prescribed for him and then 
returned to Covent Garden . . . but not with- 
out having missed the whole of the opera's sec- 
ond act. 

"However to continue with that Australasian 
tour. I had been there but a few weeks when 
a letter reached me from that great artist, Lilli 
Lehmann. It had been forwarded from London, 
to which the soprano had sent it from her home. 
It is one of the most treasured communications 
I ever received; written in beautiful French, 
and inviting me in words I shall never forget, 
to participate in two of the proposed Mozart per- 



formances which were to be given the following 
summer, in Salzburg, the home of the master 

"My good friend, 'Tony' (Antonio) Scotti, 
had, Madame Lehmann wrote, told her of my 
Mozart singing. He had spoken of me at such 
length, and in such a way, she declared, that she 
would in no circumstances be satisfied until I 
advised her that I would sing Don Ottavio, in 
'Don Giovanni,' and the leading tenor role in 
Mozart's Seventh Mass, these being two of the 
works it was Madame Lehmann's intention to 
perform. She concluded her letter with the re- 
mark that it made no difference in what lan- 
guage I replied, so long as I wrote 'yes.' I sent 
her a cable, and did not hesitate to make it a long 
one, assuring her of my delight in accepting. 

"I consider that invitation to have been the 
most striking musical honor ever bestowed on 
me ; nor can I conceive of one greater to achieve. 
Madame Lehmann's letter recalled my experi- 
ences in Boston, during the preparation and the 
performance, in the Boston Opera House, of 'Don 
Giovanni,' which I was privileged to sing under 
that eminent conductor, Felix Weingartner. 

"It was said that Weingartner pronounced me 

the greatest living singer of Mozart; but such a 
statement is, undoubtedly, without foundation 
in fact. It would be too sweeping, and though 
I am sure that no other singer approaches a Mo- 
zart composition with deeper reverence, I should 
certainly hesitate to accept such superlative en- 

"I do recall, with the utmost pleasure and satis- 
faction, that during the first general rehearsal of 
that Boston 'Don Giovanni,' Weingartner, after 
my singing of 'II mio tesoro,' put down his baton 
and applauded; which he repeated in the per- 
formance itself. After the third act of the per- 
formance he came to my dressing-room to per- 
sonally congratulate me. 

"With these recollections," resumed McCor- 
mack, "I was elated at Madame Lehmann's invi- 
tation, and the remainder of my Australasian tour 
found me devoting considerable thought to that 
forthcoming Salzburg festival which was pre- 
vented, it was to turn out, by the outbreak of the 

"At the Melbourne races," said the tenor, "I 
met one day Clarke, the Australian pearl king. 
There is a tale, I understand, which has been 
circulated to the effect that he gave me a large 



pearl fabulous in value, which Mrs. McCormack 
wears at the center of her necklace. It is 
scarcely within the limits of truth, however; for 
although Clarke did say that he wished to leave 
with me a keepsake in memory of the pleasure my 
singing had afforded him, the pearl, though a 
beautiful one, was not large nor is it the center 
one in Mrs. McCormack's string, though it forms 
part of it. 

"For hardship I recall nothing so vividly as 
the railroad accommodations of northern Queens- 
land. The roads were narrow-gauge, the sleep- 
ing-car berths both short and shallow, and being 
generally behind schedule and without dining- 
car service we often were called from an unfin- 
ished cup of coffee, to get on board a train be- 
fore it pulled out of the station. Whenever I 
think of these times I can see myself, deserting a 
half-empty coffee cup, and scurrying, a sand- 
wich in one hand, a banana in the other, for the 
car platform. But the trip in this part of 
the country was worth while, for the audiences 
were as 'shamlessly enthusiastic' as every other 



In New Zealand, through which we traveled 
extensively by automobile, my experiences were 



varying and of great interest. The people 
greeted me, and sent me on my way, with the 
same evidences of feeling which I had encount- 
ered everywhere else. Throughout Australasia 
there is shown the same outward recognition for 
an artist well liked which the Latin races display. 
Some of the keenest listeners in my New Zealand 
concerts were Maoris, who are a most interesting 
people, with a lively imagination and musical 

"One of the things I remember most distinctly 
is our visit to the Rotorva, the show-place of the 
Dominion, and the finest I have seen, anywhere. 
The guide described the various spots, as we 
reached them, in English that was a strange mix- 
ture of beautiful words with those wholly ungram- 
matical in their use ; it was a picturesque descrip- 

"There was a lake in this show-place ; its waters 
appearing absolutely pink from the reflection of 
the sunken terraces, and formed by geysers and 
hot streams. Long before there had been some 
sort of volcanic disturbance which had left its 
effects. Even the fish in this lake affected, no 
doubt by the pigment of the clay were pink. 

"It is small wonder that I should hold the ex- 


periences of that concert tour in such pleasant 

"I have often thanked God that He let me live 
and sing in this wonderful age of progress when 
distance has been practically blotted out by tele- 
graph and telephone and when even the 'men 
who go down to the sea in ships' are no longer 
out of touch with the world but are constantly in 
communication with their friends at home. I see 
you are wondering what is the reason of this di- 
gression. It is an interesting story and in many 
ways unique. On our way to the United States, 
when about two days out from Honolulu, I re- 
ceived a wireless message something to the fol- 
lowing effect: 'Have heard you are passenger 
on Niagara which arrives here Thursday morn- 
ing; do give us a concert in Honolulu. [Signed] 
Adams.' I had met Mr. Adams, a charming 
wide-awake American business man. Mrs. Mc- 
Cormack, McSweeney, and I held a council of war 
at which we decided we should give a concert. 
Then we approached the Captain as to how long 
we would remain in Honolulu and he replied, 
'Mr. McCormack, if you give me a good seat and 
sing "Mother Machree" and "I Hear You Call- 
ing" I will hold the ship for you.' 'Done,' said I. 



A wireless to Adams and a concert fixed in less 
time than it takes to tell it! We certainly live 
in an age of progress. The newspapers pub- 
lished on the day our boat arrived carried strik- 
ing advertisements of a 'very special' concert by 
John McCormack, and recounted the unusual 
circumstances under which the programme would 
be sung. Whether it was the novelty of the mode 
of arrangement, or my name, or a combination 
of the two, I only know that the tickets were en- 
tirely sold before noon on that day. We gave 
our concert, to the evident delight of the large 
audience, and went our way with the conscious- 
ness of having done something unusual. 

"It is interesting for me to recall at this point 
my many meetings with that great benefactor of 
mankind, Signor Guglielmo Marconi. When 
one considers how much more terrible, if possible, 
those disasters of the Titanic and the Lusitania 
might have been, in fact how much more 'fright- 
ful' this cowardly U-boat war would be without 
the God-given genius of this splendid Italian pa- 
triot, I feel I have been honored in grasping his 
hand, and that every civilized nation^mark my 
use of the word civilized should perpetuate his 
memory and deed in marble and bronze. Of 



course," said McCormack with a smile, "I have 
another reason to love him and his achievements. 
You see he loves Ireland, his mother was Irish 
a student of singing in Italy when she met his 
distinguished father and he married an Irish 
lady, but be that as it may, my earnest prayer is 
'God bless Marconi.' 

"I sang sixty-two concerts during that Austra- 
lasian tour. I haven't been back since, but I 
am going. For they are wonderful people out 
there, and they know what they like." 




"After that Australasian tour," remarked 
McCormack, "it was America once more. I can 
assure you that the sight of land, after our long 
voyage, was welcome to our eyes. Mrs. Mc- 
Cormack, O'Brien, McBeath, McSweeney and I 
watched from the deck of the ship the approach- 
ing shoreline. It was late February when we 
landed in Victoria, and cold . . . b-r-roo!" 

"But," I interrupted, "where were Cyril and 
Gwen ? Did you leave them aboard ship ?" 

"Yes ... in Adelaide, several weeks before, 
when we thought it best to send them back to 
Hampstead. Miss Foley went with them, so we 
held no worries for their care and safety. 

"Back in the United States our audiences were 
waiting for us ; and we presently took up the fill- 
ing of the score of concert engagements which 
Wagner had prepared. After Victoria and Van- 
couver we appeared in Seattle, Portland and other 
Pacific coast cities; every concert brought a 



crowded house, with the people welcoming me 
in a fashion that warmed my heart. 

"Nothing at all like the concert I once gave 
in Scarborough (England) when there were thir- 
teen persons present, by actual count. 

"However, that is ancient history which was 
never repeated. The newspaper writers began 
to regard me as useful 'copy,' to be regularly used, 
and I didn't object. I found myself interviewed 
in every city; though not as an editor in a New 
Zealand community once did it. He came with 
himself too prominently in mind, and after listen- 
ing to an extended discourse upon his peculiar 
greatness I excused myself for something more 
to my liking. Still, I had, it seemed, offended 
his critical majesty, for after my next concert he 
wrote that my voice was nil, my use of it atrocious 
and my enunciation impossible to understand." 

"Touched your weakest spot," I suggested. 

"Yes," said John with a grin, "like the fellow 
who once remarked that Caruso hadn't much of 
a voice. 

"Right across the country, eastward from the 
Pacific coast, our concerts attracted throngs, so 
much so that we found it necessary, with re- 
grettable regularity, to turn people away. We 



invariably secured the largest auditorium avail- 
able, and had extra chairs placed upon the stage, 
but even then there wasn't room enough to ac- 
commodate all who sought admission and I was 
genuinely sorry. I always am, in such circum- 
stances. I enjoy a 'packed' house, but I do not 
like to feel that anyone who has taken the pains 
to come to a concert hall to hear me is unable, 
from physical limitations of space, to do so. 

"As audiences in San Francisco, Los Angeles 
and other communities of the American far west 
greeted me with declarations of being glad to 
have me back again, so did Salt Lake City, Den- 
ver, Kansas City and every other city wherein 
I faced an assemblage. Larger and smaller ones 
appeared to be of the same opinion: they wanted 
me and my singing and my songs. And I was 
delighted to respond to their desires. 

"From the middle west we entered the realm 
of the east, and in good time New York, Phila- 
delphia, Boston, Washington, Baltimore and 
other centers listened to what I had to offer, and 
pronounced my artistic wares to be of a desirable 


John paused, there. Mrs. McCormack and 
Miss Foley appeared to remind him of a social 



engagement they had for that evening; so when 
they had departed he continued with this part 
of his story, somewhat hurriedly, though with 
care for sequence and fact. 

"We crossed to England, in the late spring, 
and I prepared for my Covent Garden opera sea- 
son. It was not long before there occurred the 
incident which was made, by Austria and Ger- 
many, the basis for their subsequent declaration 
of war. The man in the street did not appre- 
ciate, perhaps, the full gravity of the situation, 
but when late July arrived those of us who were 
in a better position to know were very grave. 
Rumors of war had begun to circulate ; the very 
air seemed charged with currents of dire fore- 

"I was in Ostend when the first formal declara- 
tion of war came. And the day the German sol- 
diers crossed the Belgian frontier there was a 
general rush of foreigners to seek places of com- 
parative safety. I had given a concert the night 
before, in Ostend; but, like the others, I felt no 
desire to linger. London impressed me as a wise 
objective, especially as Mrs. McCormack was with 

"I shall never forget the day we spent on the 


dock, in Ostend, waiting to board a steamer that 
should carry us across the English Channel to 
Dover. From eight o'clock that morning until 
six in the evening, Mrs. McCormack, Edwin 
Schneider, and I waited; we finally got away. 

"But the impressiveness of what we were to 
see will never leave me. Nearing Dover our 
boat ran in between a lane of British destroyers. 
It was my first full appreciation of the majesty 
of Great Britain's navy, of the titanic power 
it wields. As we proceeded through the pro- 
tecting destroyers one of them came near, and 
the captain called to the commander of our boat 
to move in as closely as possible to Folkestone. 
There was the feeling of something terrible im- 

"It was intensely real, because there arose be- 
fore me a vision of the trip we had planned, down 
the Rhine, on the way to Salzburg, where we had 
planned so soon to go. Schneider had been tell- 
ing me all about the scenery and my anticipations 
were keen. 

"When I reached home I found there a cable- 
gram from Madame Lehmann, which said: 
'Sorry we will have to postpone our Mozart fes- 
tival until after the war.' It would have been a 



performance of 'Don Giovanni,' worth hearing, 
for besides Madame Lehmann, as Donna Anna, 
Scotti was to have sung the title role, Geraldine 
Farrar the Zerlina, with Carl Braun, Andres de 
Segurola and myself completing the more im- 
portant membership of the cast. 

"The summer was one of sorrow and anxiety 
over the war into which so large a part of the 
civilized world had been plunged. We, in Eng- 
land, were of course very close to where the bat- 
tles were raging. And the import of the conse- 
quences could not be denied." 

The autumn of Nineteen Fourteen brought Mc- 
Cormack back to the United States, and into full 
artistic and popular stride. He was an interna- 
tional celebrity, with a very large income from his 
singing, and phonograph records. 

Cities and towns of all sizes and inclinations, 
and in every part of the United States, wanted 
this illustrious tenor. Even communities other 
than the largest found two (often three) appear- 
ances insufficient to satisfy the popular demands. 
The majority in any town wanted to hear John 
whenever he opened his mouth to sing. So 
three, often four, concerts in a single community 



within a period of seven months came to be an 
accepted condition. 

New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and 
a few other centers provided so many concerts 
within brief periods of time that experts shook 
their heads in undisguised amazement. Nothing 
like it had been known before ; so these wise per- 
sons marveled and, asked for a solution, gave the 
matter up. 

Large cities, smaller ones, and others of even 
lesser populations appeared to find a greater en- 
joyment in McComack's singing than ever. 
This was Edwin Schneider's first complete season 
with the tenor as his accompanist, and he tells of 
the estimate in which John was held in words 
that make an accurate mental picture. 

There were many notable concerts that sea- 
son in all parts of the United States. The 
newspapers began to recognize that John Mc- 
Cormack had become "an institution," and ac- 
cepted him as such. The magazines accepted 
him as "a personality" who could "not be ad- 
vertised," and they sought him for "feature ar- 
ticles" with increasing frequency. 

I think at that time that one might say McCor- 


mack had gained an indisputable place in his 
profession; that he had become a fixture, who 
would be taken (with the ever-renewed and en- 
thusiastic demonstrations of his hearers) as a 
necessary matter of course. 

To recount the experiences of the tenor in the 
United States since that period seems unnecessary 
at least, to any considerable extent. The pub- 
He is familiar with the fact that he sang continu- 
ously, save occasional appearances with the Chi- 
cago Grand Opera Company, in concert. He 
had previously appeared in New York with that 
organization, during its occasional Tuesday night 
visits to the Metropolitan Opera House; but it 
was to the concert platform that he devoted his 
chief endeavors. 

On Christmas Eve, Nineteen Fourteen, John 
had thrilled an audience of one hundred thou- 
sand by his singing, before Lotta's Fountain, in 
San Francisco. Out of doors, in the heart of 
the business district, this annual ceremony, spon- 
sored by the San Francisco Press Club, is an 
event. And McCormack's singing that Christ- 
mas Eve gave the newspaper men something to 
write about. 



So, John continued in his career: mounting 
steadily, being honored outside as well as within 
the field of music; meeting personages and build- 
ing a life of usefulness far wider than that com- 
monly falling to the lot of a musician regard- 
less of his eminence. 

When John established a record by giving 
twelve concerts in Greater New York as he did 
in the 1915-1916 season and packing both 
Carnegie Hall and the Hippodrome (with its 
5,000 seats) beyond their legitimate capacities 
the public ceased to wonder. It was the matter 
of course attitude, all over again. 

Seven concerts he gave to Bostonians that sea- 
son; six in Chicago; three each in Philadelphia 
and Washington. And when a single artist can 
go three times in a season to a city no larger than 
Springfield, Massachusetts, fill completely the 
largest auditorium there, and cause so many peo- 
ple to ask for tickets that they cannot be supplied, 
his position is unique. Numerous other in- 
stances, of approximate impressiveness, might be 
cited if any purpose might be served. 

One charity concert, in the New York Hip- 
podrome, netted $14,000. Another in the 
same place a few years later, for the benefit of 



the Catholic Orphan Asylum of Kingsbridge, 
brought in $36,000. 

That was the way of it. The 1915-1916 sea- 
son established a quantity, as well as a quality, 
record for John McCormack. 

But because he had won his place McCormack 
did not relax his artistic efforts, nor bask in the 
sunshine of self-content. He studied harder than 
ever, and to each public appearance he gave his 
strictest attention. He was barely thirty-two, 
and great as his achievement had been he realized 
better than anyone else the possibilities which 
lay ahead. 

For, as McCormack has already said, there is 
no stopping-place in art. He must go either 
ahead or drop back, and it was not his intention 
to retrogress. 

Symphony orchestra conductors now began 
to take notice of John McCormack, and one by 
one they invited him to appear at an important 
concert, in the interpretation of some vocal mas- 
terpiece. It was then, I am moved to think, that 
the serious-minded members of the country's 
corps of music critics got the complete artistic 
measure of John McCormack. 

His programmes, too, were steadily being 


strengthened in artistic character; and when he 
went to Boston, and gave four concerts devoted 
exclusively to the gems of song literature, any 
skepticism was swept aside. 

On one of these occasions H. T. Parker, critic 
for the Boston Transcript and one of the severest 
in the land, wrote; "Idol of the popular audi- 
ences, if you will, but on the way also to be the 
idol of connoisseurs of song." It was an opin- 
ion, without a doubt, which was and is shared by 
the majority of the leading music critics in the 
United States. 

But McCormack prizes most highly, I believe, 
the treatment he has received at the hands of Dr. 
Karl Muck. Enemy alien though he is, the lat- 
ter's position in the world of music is supreme. 
John accepted the engagement to appear for the 
first time with the Boston Symphony Orchestra 
with considerable apprehension. He knew 
Muck's reputation as a disciplinarian. It was 
natural that he should have held an idea of stu- 
pendous musical demands being made upon him. 

"So anxious was I to let Dr. Muck know that 
I was letter-perfect that I may have been stilted 
in my delivery of the Mozart aria (a Rondo., called 
'Per pieta non Ricercate,') at the rehearsal. 



" 'It is not necessary for you to take no liber- 
ties which will give ease and beauty to the music,' 
said Dr. Muck. 'Interpret as your good taste 
and feeling impel, and I will be with you.' 

"After the first public performance, the follow- 
ing season, when I sang a Beethoven aria that 
Dr. Muck accompanied superbly, I stopped in the 
wings, and found the conductor beside me. I 
was still in the transport which the work and mas- 
terly support of the orchestra had given me. I 
could hear the critical audience applauding, but 
I had thoughts for only one thing; that was the 

"I turned to the sober-faced musican standing 
beside me and told him that never had I had such 
a thrill as his conducting and the orchestra had 
supplied. And Dr. Muck, with a faint smile, 
made me an answer I shall never forget. 'You 
gave me a bit of a tear yourself, John,' was his 
remark, and that was compensation for all I had 




"The United States is the country in which I 
have sung most continuously ; the land where my 
career has been developed and whose people, in 
greatest numbers, have taken me to themselves 
as though I were their own," said McCormack. 
"I had felt, for a long time, the desire for citizen- 
ship, and in the latter part of Nineteen Sixteen 
the decision was made. 

6 'America for me and for mine,' I thought, 
and I determined to apply for citizenship papers." 

We were sitting under a canopy, on the west 
lawn at Rocklea, watching a tennis game. Two 
of the players were ensigns, in the U. S. Naval 
Reserve, on leave. Tanned and clean-limbed 
they were, average specimens of our fighting- 
boys in blue and looking their parts. 

"Stalwart lads," said John, "both of them; 
quick in mind and eye, and sportsmen. Will 
they give good accounts of themselves? You 
can find the answer in the newspapers, any day. 



Brother citizens of mine, they will be, in a few 
months more when I get my final papers in 

"It was January eleventh, Nineteen Seven- 
teen, that I took my preliminary steps towards 
naturalization. Independence Hall, that his- 
toric structure in Philadelphia, was the place. 
Could there have been one more fitting ? I chose 
it deliberately. That is what the word 'inde- 
pendence' means: liberty, freedom of thought 
and. action, human rights untrammeled and all, 
in their unrestricted fullness, to be had in these 
United States." 

He stopped there, and watched the ensigns at 
their play. Irishman that he is, and with a true 
Irishman's love for his land and its people, Mc- 
Cormack is also an American. Those of you 
should know who have seen him in his Liberty 
Loan campaigning; who have heard him in 
speeches he has made since the United States 
entered the war, and seen his eyes light as he 
has sung for the American Red Cross and Knights 
of Columbus funds. 

For John is a fighter for whatever he has 
given his heart to. He was most anxious to join 
the service and he has not yet given up hope. 



When he stood before President Wilson, tender- 
ing his services to sing to the American soldiers 
on the western battle-front wherever he might 
be sent, the President replied: 

" 'We cannot all do the same things, and those 
of us who stay at home and religiously perform 
our duties here as Americans are doing just as 
much for the cause as the soldiers in the trenches. 
But I would not wish for one moment that a 
spirit of hate should enter into our hearts, for 
were that to occur we should be swerving from 
principles which are among those for which we 
stand, and any such spirit of hate would rob us 
of the efficiency which at this time we need. 

" 'I know, Mr. McCormack, that you are fond 
of sports, of contests between boxers. You are 
aware that when a boxer sees red he endangers 
his chances of winning. So we must not allow 
hate to enter our hearts, and somebody over here 
must help to that end by keeping the fountains 
of sentiment flowing.' : 

What McCormack did for the Knights of 
Columbus and the American Red Cross is in it- 
self a story, to which we shall presently come. 
Just now, to round out the notable moments in 
John's life during Nineteen Sixteen and Seven- 



teen, there are two events to be recorded : the ban- 
quet tendered him by old-time associates of Sum- 
merhill College, at the Biltmore Hotel, in New 
York on May fifteenth of the former year, and the 
conferring upon him of the degree of Doctor of 
Literature by Holy Cross College, of Worcester, 
Massachusetts, sixteen months later. 

Seventy-five men were of the party which as- 
sembled at the Summerhill dinner to McCor- 
mack, the only laymen present, excepting the 
guest of honor, being the Hon. W. Bourke Coch- 
ran and the Hon. John C. McGuire (both Sum- 
merhill alumni), Charles L. Wagner, Denis F. 
McSweeney and Thomas J. Shanley. 

The Right Reverend Michal J. Curley, Bishop 
of St. Augustine, was to have delivered the prin- 
cipal address. McCormack anticipated, eagerly, 
having his old friend there especially in the 
capacity planned. But his duties interfered, and 
Bishop Curley, at a late hour, was obliged to dis- 
appoint. He sent for the occasion a letter, how- 
ever, to be read by his nephew, the Reverend Wil- 
liam Fallon, and in it he wrote: 

"I regret my inability to be with you in per- 
son at this great gathering, but I am there in 
spirit, and from my heart of hearts I wish my 



friend, John McCormack, continued prosperity 
and success. True to his splendid Irish faith, 
to the grand old-time Celtic traditions, he is 
hailed to-day as a credit to Irish Ireland, and cen- 
turies from now his name will be written on the 
pages of Ireland's story as her greatest gift to the 
world of song." 

After Bourke Cochran and others had spoken, 
the Reverend William Livingston, pastor of St. 
Gabriel's Church, New York, delivered his ad- 
dress. It was in part as follows : 

"Now that so many true and beautiful tributes 
of esteem have been paid to Mr. McCormack; 
now that so many flattering words of praise have 
been wafted to his ears; now that so many fra- 
grant garlands of affection have been laid at his 
feet, may we not consider for a moment the rather 
serious question of our personal duty to him in 
the days that are to come? 

"Great men have always been surrounded by 
a guard of honor on special occasions, and by 
a bodyguard in times of danger, when protection 
was deemed to be either prudent or necessary. 
If then we are so proud to call ourselves Mr. 
McCormack's guard of honor to-night, should we 
not feel bound by a high and holy obligation to 



call ourselves and to be his devoted bodyguard 
at all times in the future? If it be true that 
'death loves a shining mark,' as Young said long 
ago, it may surely be said that jealousy and ig- 
norance always turn their attention in the same 
brilliant direction. In these days of ours, even 
as in former times, every man who attains dis- 
tinction is subject to the calumnies of the en- 
vious and the suspicions of the unthinking. The 
character of George Washington was bitterly as- 
sailed during his lifetime, though now no man 
dare raise his voice against the Father of our 
Country. Even Our Blessed Lord did not 
escape the tooth of malice and the tongue of 
calumny, though He came to teach the law of 
love for all mankind. Surely then, if that law 
of love is to be observed by the laity, we of the 
clergy, whose office is to preach charity, should 
be the first, not only to practise that divine vir- 
tue, but also to rebuke those who may seem to for- 
get its existence. Surely then, as Irishmen and 
priests, we shall be on guard at all times, ready 
to defend the good name of one who is so dear 
to us, even as we would defend our own. We 
have placed that name on a throne to-night; let 
it be ours to see that no man dares to tear it down. 



"Again, it may be safely asserted that from 
the beginning of time men have had different 
opinions as to the best means of attaining a great 
end. Such a difference of opinion exists among 
our people to-day. Some men are positive that 
constitutional agitation is the only safe road that 
leads to Irish freedom. Others assert that this 
road has led to merely another form of slavery 
and will lead to worse in the future, namely, the 
gradual but utter extinction of Ireland's undeni- 
able intellectuality, Ireland's age-long love of 
freedom and Ireland's world-famed fidelity to the 
'faith once delivered to the saints.' This differ- 
ence of opinion is not disunion and it is not a 
thing to be ashamed of, no matter what be said to 
the contrary. 

"Mr. McCormack is doing work for Ireland 
to-day that no other man on earth can do. He 
is convincing a hitherto unbelieving world that 
Irish music is eminently fit to take its place 
among the compositions of the great masters, that 
its soul and expression should receive due consid- 
eration from all true artists, and that its inspira- 
tion should be a potent factor in the musical pro- 
ductions of ages yet unborn. As a man he has a 
very clear conception of duty to his native land. 



As an artist he must be a thing apart, dedicated 
and consecrated to a great cause. Therefore, it is 
but voicing your holiest sentiments when I say 
in your name that to the greatness of his name 
and to the glory of his achievements, present and 
future, we pledge him here to-night our warmest 
support, in loyal, unswerving and affectionate de- 

A further evidence of his appreciation of the 
tenor was forthcoming from Father Livingston 
in the poem, entitled "McCormack," which is as 

Where Shannon's lordly waters sweep along 
In foaming majesty from fair Lough Ree, 

Athlone's old bridge still lives in storied song, 
And keeps men dreaming of the years to be. 

Its stones are gone., its glories passed away; 
But song-bird memories are waked to-day. 

Near that old bridge came first an infant's cry, 
A lad's sweet treble, then a youth's soft tone, 

Which flamed in fervor as the years ranged by, 
And made the hearts of all mankind his throne. 

Northward it flashed to rouse the sleeping thrall, 
Southward rang out its silver clarion call. 

Across far seas that soul-enchanting strain 
Flow"ed on, melodiously so clear and strong, 


Till Music crowned him in her loved domain 
The master singer of true Irish song. 

With lays whose tenderness is half his own. 
He charm,s the world and glorifies Athlone. 

With all the honors that have been heaped 
upon him, McCormack still blushes when a new 
one offers. The occasion of the Holy Cross Col- 
lege Degree was no exception. He fidgeted 
throughout preliminaries. And when the Rec- 
tor, Father Dinand, S.J., began his conferring ad- 
dress John was frankly embarrassed. 

"To sing his country's songs," began Father 
Dinand, "caring naught who made her laws, was 
the sentiment of the seer who voices the common 
feelings of his fellow men. The soul of the na- 
tion passing through the entire gamut of change 
must sound the depths and at times reach to 
heights of passion, hence the songs that tell this 
story will ever be the embodiment of the nation's 
life, while laws will but point the pathways of the 
nation's progress. 

"Sculptured marble, deftly wrought, silent 
must stand and ever mute, what though you 
strike it and cry out 'Speak!' Bronze, ver- 
dantique with years, can never be the sacred de- 
pository of the living soul. 



"To a heart fashioned in the land of tender 
emotions, to a mind schooled in the isle of 
scholars, the gift of sweetest song was vouch- 
safed to fill up the measure of creation in the 
man who could interpret for the world the hidden 
depths of his country's treasure-soul. 

"In fullest appreciation of his deep study of 
the Celtic and the Romance literatures, in hearty 
acknowledgment of his God-given mission as an 
educator of the world in the wealth of music and 
folklore of his native land, and as an earnest of 
affection for the gifted son of Erin's soil, Holy 
Cross College confers the honorary degree of 
Doctor of Literature upon John McCormack." 

I was rummaging, one evening, through Mc- 
Cormack's collection of papers: documents and 
letters and clippings of articles which the tenor 
had placed at my disposal for such information 
as might demand incorporation into this book. 
There were heaps of them, and I had sorted the 
lot, and read until my eyes ached. 

One, however an extract from the San Diego 
Sun attracted and held my attention. It was 
so typically pertinent that I reread the article, 
alleged to have been written by a cub reporter on 



that newspaper, who confessed to knowing noth- 
ing about music, yet disclosed a singular capacity 
for peering into the depths of human nature. 

I do not seek to contradict him, he may have 
been what he proclaimed; but my opinion is that 
he was an old hand at the newspaper game, who 
knew a story when he saw one, and how to write 
it as well. And as for the cub reporter part, 
that, to my notion, was a bit of camouflage on the 
part of a city editor, just to dress the tale for his 
readers' tastes. 

The writer began his story by stating that the 
regular music critic of the paper (who, if there 
was one, probably covered fires and the police- 
court, besides) was indisposed. The cub re- 
porter admitted, without shame, his unacquaint- 
ance with music or how a music review should 
be handled, and but here is what he wrote : 

"The fact that I don't know the difference be- 
tween an arpeggio and a coloratura soprano is 
what doubtless led to my selection to 'cover' John 
McCormack's concert at the Spreckels last night ; 
it's a way city editors have to shovel out an 
assignment to the man who knows nothing about 
it. But, as a matter of fact, I knew a little some- 
thing about the particular subject in hand, so to 



speak, for several times I had heard a record of 
McCorraack's singing, 'I Hear You Calling Me,' 
and had wept honest unashamed tears over it, 
and on the fifth playing, had threatened to break 
that record; because I felt sad enough already. 

"Then some fellow over in the Spreckels The- 
atre, who had heard McCormack sing somewhere 
in the East, told me I would enjoy the affair, that 
he sang a number of the old songs we all heard 
in our younger days, the songs everybody loves to 
hear repeated, and that cheered me up, for I con- 
cluded that this Irish tenor must be a fairly popu- 
lar entertainer instead of a highup god, whom the 
highbrows worship, even though they understand 

"As to that, however, I had some doubts when 
I saw the programme, that this Irish tenor 
whom the phonograph people say they made fa- 
mous much as Mr. John McGraw might speak 
of Mr. Christopher Mathewson in baseball that 
this Mr. McCormack was going to start by singing 
a recitative, an aria by the justly celebrated Mr. 

"And when I heard him sing this I still had 
some doubts, for it all sounded miles away from 
anything like what Sousa or Leo Frankenstein 



have written. And, besides, I noticed the most 
applause came from the chaps in dress suits and 
the ladies in dress to match. In fact, their ap- 
plause was furious, not to say superior. 

"But the encore was a little song which invited 
a beautiful lady to sleep on her lover's bosom and 
to lose herself in him, and that, to my feeble and 
non-artistic understanding, seemed much more 
human and much more worthy of ordinary hu- 
man applause. By the way, McCormack is a 
fine, manly-looking fellow, with the kindest of 
smiles, and when he sings he stands with his feet 
well apart, his head tipped up toward the bal- 
cony, and his hands clasped in front of him. 

"After his first encore, he sang 'Love's Quar- 
rel,' followed by a song in French, of which I 
actually understood some few words, and then the 
great, rich, noble song 'The Lord Is My Light,' 
whose fine chords of accompaniment made you 
know that at some time a musician had been able 
to picture a great, reverent thought and had done 
it powerfully and nobly. McCormack sang it 
that way, too. Then some lilting Irish songs, 
with the twang of the ould sod in them and love 
and romance, and a bit of mischief as well. 
Then, by and by, 'I Hear You Calling Me,' and 



I went to hide the tears that came from my eyes 
and met a music expert a fellow whom I had 
regarded as high-browish and with superior 
knowledge. He has a fine tenor voice and uses 
it for money. Rather timidly I asked him how 
McCormack stood among great singers ? And he 
said : 'Lord, man, if I had that voice if I could 
only reproduce those tones I'd give my socks, 
my shoes, my shirt honest!' And he gulped 

"At the end they all stood up and applauded 
and waited, and McCormack came back again and 
sang to that great audience, one of the largest 
ever in the Spreckels. I'd go again without 
being sent." 




Tis a good soldier who does as he is bid. 
John McCormack became a soldier in the fall of 
Nineteen Seventeen; enlisted to swell the ex- 
chequers that provide the means for our soldiers 
and sailors to fight with, and to succor them when 
succor is needed. 

"Could any man with red blood in his veins do 
less?" demanded John of me as we discussed the 
matter. "I'll never forget how I felt while I 
stood with others in a vast crowd, watching the 
first contingent so soon to embark for some point 
'over there.' 

"Young they were; among the pick of our 
youth in all the land. And they were marching 
before us for the last time before facing the 
enemy some of them never to ... come back. 
Mrs. McCormack was with me. She felt as I felt. 
I never see the men pass by with our banner at 
their head that I do not get a great lump in my 



' 'One has to be close to them, to really under- 
stand,' she said in lowered voice. I turned to 
look into her face; her lip trembled. She was 
right. Nor were we the only ones in that throng 
of New York spectators, who felt the tug of the 
heart, and a strange clutching at the throat. 

"It is no effort for me to sing 'God Be With 
Our Boys Tonight,' for it is a prayer that comes 
from somewhere deep down inside me almost 
unbidden to my lips." 

McCormack has sung that song many times in 
the last year. Other songs he has also sung, 
without compensation save that which he felt his 
duty; and from that singing has come from the 
public approximately half a million dollars for 
investment in Liberty Bonds, and two hundred 
and forty-nine thousand dollars contributed to the 
funds of the American Red Cross, the Knights of 
Columbus, the Sixty-ninth New York Regiment, 
the Ninth Regiment of Massachusetts, and other 

I learned, quite by accident, that these large 
sums represent not only the net receipts from 
McCormack's efforts, but also the gross. For 
when the tenor has sung there have been no 
incidental expenses to be deducted from what the 



public has paid to hear him. He and Managers 
Wagner and McSweeney and Accompanist Edwin 
Schneider have not only given their services but 
have paid the attendant traveling and living ex- 

Not a penny of the money was handled by 
Wagner and McSweeney in any of the McCor- 
mack concerts for the American Red Cross and 
the Knights of Columbus. And to fill the San 
Francisco and Los Angeles engagements McCor- 
mack and his management personally took care 
of the railroad fares, among other items, from the 
Atlantic to the Pacific coast and return. But in 
addition to all this, where public-spirited citizens 
did not do so, McCormack and his business asso- 
ciates have paid the rent of halls, and the cost of 
printing and advertising. 

"For weeks I had been impatient to do some- 
thing to help the country in the part it was play- 
ing to defeat the Allies' enemy," said McCor- 
mack. "It was in November of Nineteen Seven- 
teen, after I had seen the President. My per- 
sonal interests were matters of secondary consid- 
eration. I must do something, I felt, and at 

"Soon thereafter I lunched with John D. Ryan, 


of the American Red Cross, at his home on Long 
Island. 'What is it that the American Red Cross 
most needs which I am able to assist it to get?' I 
asked. 'Whatever it may be, I am at the Soci- 
ety's service.' 

"Mr. Ryan's eyes shone. 'The Red Cross 
needs two things,' he replied: 'money and the 
spreading of its propaganda. Many men can 
raise money, but few men or women, either 
have the power to stimulate the public into mak- 
ing cash contributions and, also, to make known 
to the people what the Red Cross represents and 
its accomplishments. You are one of those few, 
because you have the capacity to reach the public 
through its hearts.' 

"I was willing, if need be, to contribute one 
hundred thousand dollars," said McCormack, 
"but I realized what spreading the propaganda 

' 'In that event,' I answered, 'you may rely 
upon me to sing as many concerts as are neces- 
sary to net the Red Cross one hundred thousand 
dollars. And, to the best of my ability, I will 
spread its propaganda.' 

"On the following seventeenth of December," 
continued John, "I gave my first Red Cross con- 



cert. It was held in Washington, on an evening 
possible for President Wilson, Mrs. Wilson and 
others of the presidential suite to be present." 

Concerts in New York, Philadelphia and Bos- 
ton followed, and the cause brought enthusiastic 
audiences into every auditorium. Chicago pro- 
vided its quota of people and dollars, and Denver, 
San Francisco where $25,147 was realized 
from the sale of tickets and McCormack phono- 
graph records, which John contributed and auto- 
graphed and Los Angeles followed. 

At McCormack's Boston appearance, at the big 
Red Cross Rally, held in Tremont Temple, the 
throng that sought admittance could not be 
wholly accommodated. General John A. Johns- 
ton, chairman of the meeting, aroused the audi- 
ence which had previously been in a tumult 
through John's singing of "The Star-Spangled 
Banner," "Keep the Home Fires Burning," and 
other patriotic songs by calling for a rising vote 
of thanks to the tenor. General Johnston termed 
John McCormack "the singing Prophet of Vic- 

"It was an experience that thrilled me," ad- 
mitted John. "Much as I believed I understood 
what spreading the propaganda meant, and stimu- 



lating an appreciation of the great accomplish- 
ments of the Red Cross, it was only in the field of 
activity that I got close enough to its heart to 
feel its real beats." 

I am aware that John performed his service 
for the American Red Cross with no consciousness 
of sacrifice. I know that his own affairs, during 
that period of service, concerned him least of all. 
Absorbed in the work, he lived it with a patriotic 
simplicity that was its appealing characteristic. 
I recall speaking with him, in the Pennsylvania 
Railroad station, in New York, just before he left 
for the west to fill one of these Red Cross concert 
missions. And he was disinclined to speak of 
his personal efforts in the undertaking he had 

"It is the cause, not the men in it," he said, 
"which we must consider and concentrate upon. 
We are all soldiers, enlisted for specific purposes ; 
each having his particular part to perform. My 
share in what is being done is only the accom- 
plishment of what my abilities allow me most 
effectively to do. One man fits in here, another 
man at some other place; and the women, too 
they are doing their respective tasks nobly." 

He regarded himself no more than part of a 


human machine, assembled for humanity's sake. 
It was the attitude McCormack holds these days, 
which points his thoughts towards the big things 
in life, and is making of him a singer able to touch 
hearts even more poignantly than ever before. 
He held it during his Red Cross service ; and the 
people got it when he stood before them spread- 
ing propaganda with his song. 

If ever it were proved, conclusively beyond any 
doubt, it was proved by John McCormack during 
his enlistment (he feels that he still is enlisted, 
under waiting orders) that music is no longer 
among the non-essentials. "In these times," he 
asserts, "it has been demonstrated that music is 
as necessary to victory as munitions and supplies 
. . . for it is music that is helping to get them, 
by keeping, as President Wilson said, 'the foun- 
tains of sentiment flowing.' 

"The song," asserted McCormack, "that has 
been hallowed and sanctified by feelings so much 
greater than any ever roused by mere musical 
and verbal perfection is such that there is no 
longer anything in the world with which to com- 
pare it. 

"When I sing 'God Be with Our Boys To- 
night' I am not offering musical intervals of much 



or little charm, or words of literary or non-literary 
value. I am singing something that everybody 
left in this country is singing with me. Every 
people the world over has put itself into its war 
songs and made those songs immortal. 

"And there will be more songs; they will 
spring up suddenly, no one will be able to tell 
why. They must be simple, and sincere, and 
must have that indefinable quality which makes 
everybody who hears them want to 'join in.' 

"But those are the songs our singers must 
keep singing it's our branch of the service, and 
we dare not neglect it. I think every singer in 
this country should be at work for the war." 

John did not cease his patriotic service with 
the successful conclusion of his efforts to secure 
for the American Red Cross one hundred thou- 
sand dollars. The Knights of Columbus re- 
quired money for its war fund. 

"What do you want me to do? How much 
money can I assist, through my singing, in secur- 

Fifty thousand dollars was the amount, and 
McCormack's endeavors in New York, Boston, 
Baltimore, Buffalo and Chicago yielded this sum. 

He gave concerts, also, for the dependents of 



the Sixty-ninth Regiment of New York and the 
Ninth Regiment of Massachusetts. 

John will continue in his work, whenever ne- 
cessity requires, because his heart is in it and 
he stands ready to respond to the call. 




John McCormack never took a course in sales- 
manship. He has no intimate acquaintance with 
what some experts in that line term "the science 
of selling." He might learn, if he were so dis- 
posed, for Edwin Schneider, his accompanist and 
close friend, asserts that John has a mind like a 

But John is an artist, not a scientist, and it is 
therefore not surprising that he should have ap- 
plied art to his appeals to the public to which he 
disposed of many Liberty Loan bonds. The tale, 
however, that he sold two millions dollars' worth 
is not correct. He seeks no credit for anything 
he has done to assist in prosecuting our share in 
the war; what he does insist upon, though, is 
exactness, not exaggeration, in statements regard- 
ing whatever service he has performed. 

"I do not know the precise quantity of Liberty 
Bonds I have been instrumental in selling," he 
said, "perhaps a half million dollars in value. 



One person, alone, took one fourth of that 
amount at a single purchase, and I want it under- 
stood that it was a voluntary contribution which 
came unsought and from an unexpected source 
after I had finished with the actual assignment 
given me. 

"It was during the Second Liberty Loan, when 
the drive was in need of every impetus that could 
be applied, that I was asked to aid. McCreery's 
department store, near Fifth Avenue in Thirty- 
fourth Street, was the place in New York where 
I was sent. It was an autumn morning, the air 
was crisp, and I had abundant enthusiasm. 

"Why not? I had something of sterling 
value to offer ; the inducement, from a monetary 
viewpoint, was sufficient to interest anyone of dis- 
cernment having money to invest. But more 
than that, my prospective customers stood on the 
common ground of patriotic unity. It wasn't 
'Will you buy?' it was 'How much in Liberty 
Bonds to-day? Our country needs your sup- 

"Stability in values and sentiment were joined 
when I appealed to the people who gathered about 
my booth, in McCreery's. I had as associate an 
official bond-salesman, whom the government 



provided. We decided upon a plan of campaign 
I believe that is customary, in selling. 

"To every purchaser of a one-hundred-dollar 
Liberty Bond it was agreed that I should auto- 
graph any phonograph record of a song I had 
sung. For whoever would buy a one-thousand- 
dollar bond I was prepared to sing a song, and 
allow the purchaser the privilege of choosing the 

"You see, we surrounded our selling propo- 
sition with every inducement possible to make it 
attractive. According to business analysis, it 
had a triple appeal: value, sentiment and the 
choice of either my autograph or a song, depend- 
ing upon the investment. 

"It didn't take long for us to get started. We 
secured a crowd, quickly. The arrangement was 
that I should serve for the one day only; it was 
an endeavor in which many personalities well 
known to the public had been asked to aid in a 
special drive. The government wanted its Lib- 
erty Loan to be oversubscribed, and was entitled 
to the enthusiastic support of everyone capable 
of selling and buying. 

"I had seen patriotic and capable men engaged 
in appealing to people to respond to the call of 



their country by doing their duty to the limit of 
their ability to buy bonds. And I admired and 
felt with those who possessed the power to reach 
the hearts of their listeners. For that is what 
this war means to us over here: our hearts must 
be reached, and kept beating with the sort of re- 
sponsiveness which will 'keep the fountains of 
sentiment flowing.' 

"Many times, during that autumn day in Nine- 
teen Seventeen, I was moved by some incident. 
Some one patron, to whom the buying of a one- 
hundred-dollar bond meant some personal sacri- 
fice, would disclose an unselfish loyalty which 
made my own heart throb. And there were more 
than a few of this sort. For them I signed my 
name on my phonograph records with real joy; 
and I signed it often. 

"I was happy to sing for the one-thousand- 
dollar buyers, who were numerous. It got to be 
like encores at a concert, after a time. And thus 
enthusiasm grew. As the day wore on, and our 
sales mounted, I addressed those who were within 
sound of my voice in the store." 

The New York newspapers, in their news 
stories published the following morning, pro- 
nounced McCormack's speech as one filled with 



sentiment and devotion. They laid particular 
stress upon the unusual effect upon a throng of 
people who blocked the aisles, listening to the 
plea of a singer who also had unquestioned 
powers of oratory. 

"At times someone would appear, and inquire 
rather skeptically, if I really would sing if five 
thousand dollars in bonds were subscribed. The 
firm had advertised the terms upon which I would 
supply the autograph and vocal bonuses, yet there 
were people who, arriving late, evidently felt that 
my voice might have given out. 

"I assure you it was inspiring to me to feel the 
response from those men and women who came 
and were susceptible to an appeal. It fired me 
with gratitude that the singer and the song are 
what they are. My professional experience 
had long convinced me of this; but it has taken 
the Red Cross, the Knights of Columbus and the 
Liberty Loan work I have done to show me the 
flame of truth at its brightest. 

"In the end," declared the tenor, "I actually 
bought bonds for myself from myself, and I was 
happy in being able to do so." 

During the Third Liberty Loan push John 
helped the government to lift it over the top. In 



the midst of his Red Cross campaigning, at a con- 
cert he was giving, in Providence, a short but vital 
speech he made stirred his hearers to an extent 
that caused a liberal opening of their purses in 
the purchase of bonds. 

Mayor Gaynor spoke to the vast audience be- 
fore McCormack appeared. He told them of 
what the tenor had already accomplished; that 
$85,000 of the $100,000 he had pledged him- 
self to raise was already in the treasury of the 
Red Cross. And he appealed to them to buy 
Liberty Bonds. 

McCormack's entrance caused a demonstra- 
tion. It was some time before he could start his 
programme. He closed it with "God be with 
Our Boys Tonight," and he left his hearers silent, 
for a moment, before they could bring themselves 
to their applause. 

But when John returned to the platform it was 
as speaker, not in the capacity of singer. I think 
it is sometimes more interesting for a throng to 
listen to spoken words from one who uses the 
voice in song if the occasion be peculiarly 
suited to it. In this instance the people sat, 
many holding their breaths, waiting for the 
tenor's opening words. 



"I know," said McCormack, "that the senti- 
ment expressed in that prayer, 'God be with Our 
Boys Tonight,' finds an echo in your hearts. As 
the body without a soul is dead so, also, is faith 
without good works of no avail. The good work 
of our boys over there is going on, we know, be- 
cause of their faith that we over here are standing 
behind them ; they know they can depend on us. 
If you have faith and I am sure you have back 
it with your contributions that will prove that you 
are doing your part as well as our fighters are 
doing theirs. Buy Liberty Bonds!" 

"I had known that John had some oratorical 
gift," admitted a close friend of the tenor, in talk- 
ing about that occasion, "but he actually thrilled 
me that afternoon. Nor was I the only one so 
impressed. I concede to being prejudiced, yet I 
do not overstate in asserting that I seldom have 
been so moved by John's singing as I was during 
that spoken appeal of his in Providence." 

"I remember a very interesting experience," 
John continued, "and I hope I will not appear 
boastful in telling it, eleven days later, in Buf- 
falo. Walking through the rotunda of the 
Iroquois Hotel I was stopped by a lady. She 
told me that a blind gentleman living in the hotel, 



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who was further afflicted through being an in- 
valid, had never heard me sing. 

" 'He has so often expressed the hope,' ex- 
plained the lady, 'of some time being able to 
listen to you, Mr. McCormack if only in one 
song. In New York we know that you sang 
for whoever purchased a five-thousand-dollar 
Liberty Bond. This gentleman . . . well, if 
you would sing just one song is willing to 
buy one hundred thousand dollars' worth of 

"It is contrary to my custom ever to sing be- 
fore going on the platform on the day of a concert. 
Yet this was so marked an exception that I re- 
plied, 'Certainly I'll do it.' 

"So a piano was wheeled into the room on the 
second floor of the hotel, where a Liberty Loan 
luncheon was to be served; and there the inva- 
lided and blind gentleman was taken. I sang 
'God be with Our Boys,' and true to his word the 
patron bought one hundred thousand dollars' 
worth of bonds." 

At the meeting at the Metropolitan Opera 
House in New York, on the evening of September 
27, 1918, when President Wilson delivered his 
great war address at the launching of the Fighting 



Fourth Liberty Loan, John McCormack sang 
"The Star-Spangled Banner." 

No patriotic call finds him hesitant. E. T. 
Stotesbury, the banker, sent him one, in May, 
Nineteen Eighteen, when the final touches were 
being put upon the campaign of forty-eight east- 
ern Pennsylvania counties to sell $115,000,000 
in War-Savings Stamps. It was pledge-week, 
and Charles M. Schwab and four thousand Phila- 
delphians were in the Metropolitan Opera 
House, where Mr. Stotesbury presided as chair- 

McCormack's singing was a factor in that meet- 
ing, which netted a very large subscription for 
War-Savings Stamps. But the incident that 
seemed to make the impression that night was 
in Charles Schwab's words, as he stepped to the 
spot where the tenor stood waiting to sing. With 
one hand upon John's shoulder Schwab said: 

"I want to thank my old friend, John McCor- 
mack, for coming here to-night. He is a great 
artist, but great as is his art his heart is greater; 
and greater still than his heart is his patriotism. 
God bless you, John!" 




The day was sultry and the humid heat-waves 
had sent us to the pierhead, where the Cyril lay 
like a sea-thing dozing on the glassy surface of 
the water. Besides Mrs. McCormack and the 
two children, we were, Miss Foley, John, his mas- 
ter-accompanist Edwin Schneider, and myself, a 
party of seven, all rather moist and turning ap- 
praising eyes waterwards where possibly bodily 
relief might be had. 

Our wilted attitudes made us look an amusing 
lot, or would have had there been in any one of 
us ambition to summon a sense of humor. But 
with the shore left behind and the Cyril tearing 
along at twenty knots we found a breeze other 
than that of the motor-boat's own making. The 
lowered temperature, which always prevails on 
water, gradually restored our interest in exter- 
nals and we prepared to take notice. 

I sat alongside John, who held the wheel and 


worked the controls all like those of a motor- 
car. The others sat aft, in wicker-chairs, under 
a canopy. 

"From time to time someone rises to deplore 
the managerial recognition given to the American 
singer in his own land and to ask if in fairness 
he should not have wider opportunities, and re- 
ceive a more general acceptance from the pub- 
lic," said the tenor. 

"I believe that I am amongst those who feel 
that the American singers have not only demon- 
strated their capacities, but that they are now 
reaping benefits from them. In concert and in 
opera we see and hear them, during the music 
season, so continuously and under such favorable 
auspices and they are accomplishing such admir- 
able things, that in my opinion the American 
singers may in all truth be said to be coming into 
their own. 

"Inspection of the roster of the Metropolitan 
Opera Company will disclose an amazingly large 
percentage of Americans, a number of them first- 
principals. The same is true of the Chicago 
Opera Company, and of other, if smaller, opera 
companies in the United States. In opera the 
American who has ability to achieve is being ac- 



corded opportunity, and I have no doubt that as 
there is an increase in the number of those who 
possess exceptional qualifications for their tasks 
we shall witness a corresponding gain in the 
quantity growth of their triumphs. 

"The concert field certainly reveals the Ameri- 
cans prospering and accomplishing much artis- 
tically in their own country. Men and women 
both are appearing everywhere. In recital, ora- 
torio and miscellaneous concert the native artists 
are not only challenging successfully those of for- 
eign birth, but the greater number of the desir- 
able engagements are theirs. 

"There are persons, I know, who contend that 
American audiences prefer a singer having a for- 
eign-sounding name; who assert, and rather vio- 
lently at times, that the adage about 'the prophet 
in his own country' is in full working order where 
the American vocalist is concerned. But with 
all due respect, I cannot agree. For I think the 
day of such possible bias is past and that the 
period of ascendancy for native singing-artists is 
now well under way. 

"If we consider the great American singers, 
pronounced that by the press and the public, their 
number will compare very favorably with those 



of other lands. Possibly not in opera, for our 
vocalists engaged in that branch have begun but 
recently to develop in appreciable numbers. But 
in concert American singers win the greater part 
of the many engagements to be had, and I should 
be surprised if the next decade does not bring 
opera-singing Americans of the first rank to the 
fore in numbers that will satisfy their most valiant 

John drove the Cyril to starboard of an outly- 
ing rock and headed a few points astern of a 
thirty-footer which lay gracefully ahead. 

"There's many an American singer like that 
sloop yonder : capable, personally impressive and 
succeeding in the chosen element. I rejoice that 
singers born in the United States have such un- 
deniably exceptional talents and that they are 
putting them to proper advantage. 

"Nowhere in the world have I heard as many 
splendid natural voices as in this country. You 
may find them in every city and town, in villages 
even upon the countryside. The quantity of 
American singing material now being developed 
is colossal. I would not wish to intimate that 
the major part will bloom, but enough will in 
time to allow favorable competition with foreign- 



ers. And from it there will emerge, I feel, more 
than a few sterling artists. 

"I believe we must go far to find foreign-born 
artists whose successes equal those that have 
came to Lillian Nordica, Emma Eames, Mary 
Garden, Geraldine Farrar, Olive Fremstad and 
Louise Homer to name a few whose operatic 
reputations are preeminent. Doesn't it indicate 
that where exceptional abilities are present in a 
singer the singer achieves and is recognized? I 
might go on and name other native artists who 
have triumphed, and are triumphing, if it were 
necessary; but if anyone will stop and mentally 
go over a list of those known to have prospered 
artistically and in the public's estimation the 
proofs will appear in themselves and clearly. 

"In both the Metropolitan and the Chicago 
companies there is scarcely a performance 
wherein at least one American singer, and oft- 
ener more than one, is in the cast. A generous 
number of first-roles are allotted our singers; if 
there be some who would like to see increased 
representation in this respect I believe some com- 
pensation is provided in the truly predominating 
appearance of Americans in parts of secondary 



"Sopranos and mezzos and contraltos, tenors, 
baritones and bassos who are Americans may be 
heard in leading roles in both of our largest opera 
companies. And a comparison of the frequency 
of their singing and their number with what ob- 
tained in these respects a dozen years ago will 
show the growth of both to be astonishing. In 
these circumstances is it not within reason to as- 
sume that another ten years will place the Amer- 
ican singer in a stronger position operatically than 
that now occupied, and add to the quantity which 
is winning on sheer ability? ' 

Dead ahead at that moment we saw something 
running low in the water. It was half a mile off, 
not readily distinguishable and our attention was 
drawn to the object by a cry from Cyril, whose 
sharp eyes first saw it. "A submarine!" he ex- 
claimed. And so it proved. 

John twisted the wheel and the Cyril's bow 
swerved to starboard. That brought within our 
area of vision what we had not noticed until then 
another craft several hundred yards astern of 
what appeared to be a submarine. Looking we 
discovered a patrol steamer. She rode high 
enough for classification ; her appearance slightly 
resembling a destroyer. Up forward we could 



make out a gun and about it a group of naval boys 
very evidently on the job. 

Our motor-boat, as John opened wide the throt- 
tle, leaped ahead still faster, every minute carry- 
ing us closer to that low-lying thing of gray which 
was now unquestionably an American submarine 
of the K type, running awash. She was moving 
leisurely, and our flag floated from a mast. Sev- 
eral figures, in uniform, were discernible on the 
bridge ; one surveying us through a glass. 

We ran as close as we dared, swerved sharply 
to starboard again and passing on circled the stern 
of the patrol. We waved, got our answer from 
the crew on deck, and continued our course. As 
John slowed the speed of the Cyril he turned to 
me and spoke. 

"Doesn't it give one a thrill to see those de- 
fenders? A sense of grateful security; of con- 
fidence in what this country is doing, here and 
over there? If we can develop a fighting-force 
in the short time we have, and give them the 
necessary support on sea as well as land, it should 
be reasonable to assume that American singers 
can find their places, and the best ones too, just 
as surely in opera. 

"It needs only the serious study required to 


win foremost operatic positions, and the other 
essentials that go with serious study. For nat- 
ural voice and operatic talent unquestionably 
abound in this country. Nor do I feel that the 
public will be any less loyal in extending recog- 
nition and support to its opera singers than to 
its soldiers and sailors. 

"When we scrutinize American singers in the 
concert field there is really little to justify any 
complaint that they are without prestige and 
plenty to do. The public, moreover, seems ready 
and waiting for them, for it welcomes them again 
and again. Everywhere I go in the United States 
I hear, on every side, expressions of approval for 
the achievements of singer after singer who has 
been born in this land. And if we would look 
for evidence of who they are and what they have 
done it is necessary to go no farther than to point 
to Alma Gluck and Reinald Werrenrath and 
there are others, besides." 

A cloud drifted over the sun just then, and 
looking overhead we saw from the west other 
clouds, black and quick-moving. "A squall," 
announced John; "we shall have to run for it." 
When we had docked and reached the McCor- 



mack veranda, the tenor finished with his opin- 

"Personally I have the highest admiration for 
American singers and for their future. They 
have voice, musical natures, intelligence, indus- 
try and perseverance. They are coming fast and 
will not be denied, and to those who are not over- 
impatient and learn that progress cannot be 
forced there is a reward and a public of their 
own people who will greet them with open arms." 




Mrs. McCormack, her sister and the two chil- 
dren had gone to a neighbor's to play tennis, the 
weather had turned cool, and I descended from 
the study to the veranda for a breath in the pure 
air and a general look around. I was standing 
there when John appeared, fresh from a trip to 
the city, as exuberant as a small boy. 

"Some new songs," he announced, "dug out 
of the library and several you never heard." 

I didn't enter a denial. John is rather sure of 
his facts. 

"I had the same experience, last year, in the 
Boston library. I met Philip Hale, the critic, 
and showed him songs he had never seen." The 
tenor surveyed me triumphantly. Hale is one of 
our musical scholars; few have a chance with 
him a veritable human encyclopaedia of music. 
I entertained no desire to match my knowledge 
with his, so, by maneuvering, I extricated myself 
from that position by encouraging John to talk. 



"After all, what's in a song?" he demanded. 
"A message people can understand. Melody, 
first, set to text that conveys something to heart 
and mind. One of the difficult tasks of my pro- 
fession, and as important as the actual singing, 
is the choice of material for my programmes, and 
its arrangement. Programme-making has been 
declared an art, and that it is. Occasionally 
some erudite musician attempts to treat it as a 
science, and discovers something gone wrong. 
The solution is easy : one cannot apply the square 
and other measuring instruments to human emo- 
tions. Not, at least, where music prevails. 

"I build my programme in a set way," said the 
tenor, "and never vary from it. The formula is 

"First, I give my audiences the songs I love. 

"Second, I give them songs they ought to like, 
and will like when they hear them often enough. 

"Third, I give them the folksongs of my na- 
tive land, which I hold to be the most beautiful 
of any music of this kind this is song propa- 

"Fourth, I give my audiences songs they want 
to hear, for such songs they have every right to 
expect. If I were to speak to an audience before 



beginning a programme I probably should say 
something like this: 'I thank you with all my 
heart for being here, and I'll do my best to make 
you glad you've come.' 

"And whilst on the subject of audiences I want 
to say that they have rights the artist should at 
all times respect. We hear occasional objections 
to what is termed 'the encore nuisance.' I hope 
I shall never come to regard in that way the desire 
for additional singing of those who come to a con- 
cert to hear me. It really is a tribute which one 
should esteem ; I know I do. It is as if they said : 
'That is beautiful; please give us more.' I know 
I should feel lost were encores not requested 
through applause, and I wish to say that if the 
day ever comes when my hearers do not want me 
to give them encores I shall consider it time to 
stop singing. 

"We have, I believe, two kinds of music: one 
kind for our feelings and another for our purely 
intellectual side. You frequently hear some mu- 
sician praising a musical composition which has 
neither inspiration nor mood. 'Splendidly 
written,' pronounces the musician, overlooking 
the paucity of the content. But technique never 
will cover, for the people, any lack of melody. 



"The first duty of any artist to his public is to 
consider its tastes. He may cultivate them, if he 
can, but he must do so wisely so that the people 
may not be made aware that they are being edu- 
cated. To them that is distasteful ; Oscar Ham- 
merstein admitted that it was unfortunate that he 
should have designated his preliminary season at 
the Manhattan in the fall of Ninteen Hundred 
Nine as 'educational.' He admitted it, too, in a 
curtain speech at the close of his effort. 

"My way," confessed the tenor, "is to stimu- 
late by an easy and imperceptible route in the 
audiences I sing to, the desire for some songs that 
are of the best. It is a delicate procedure. One 
must go cautiously, and go slow. An exceed- 
ingly small part of the public truly seeks a 
concert which has as offerings only the songs of 
the masters. And as my audiences are invari- 
ably of great size, with the majority having sim- 
ple musical tastes, I have those tastes to respect. 
After years of endeavor I have succeeded, grad- 
ually, in incorporating into a programme from 
six to eight song compositions of genuine musical 
substance ; and I have managed to hold the atten- 
tion of each audience during the interpretation of 
these 'better' songs. 



"And this is what has happened. Little by 
little, the 'better' song has come to be compre- 
hended and then thoroughly understood. All 
the while I have given them generously the sim- 
ple songs, songs that many pronounce inferior. 
They may be that, musically. I admit that many 
I use are not 'classics,' but if they give pleasure 
to my hearers do they not serve a useful purpose? 
I think so. 

"I am aware that some so-called 'highbrows' 
charge me with singing 'popular stuff.' So I do, 
and I am proud to be able to sing it so that this 
'popular stuff' performs its mission: a mission 
that banishes sadness from darkened hearts, that 
turns the thoughts in the way they should go, 
that lifts and encourages or sends a tear into the 
eye. If a song that appeals to our better nature 
happens to have a sentimental touch which is 
simple enough to reach the simplest heart, is it 
any the less a song having a purpose than some 
song, more finely made musically, which touches 
only the few? From an aesthetic standpoint I 
concede the connoisseur's objection, but two va- 
rieties of tastes require my consideration, and I 
must heed them. 

"If a professor of mathematics were to jump, 


or to attempt to jump, his class in arithmetic to 
calculus without any intermediate steps his pupils 
could not understand. To their minds calculus 
would be as blank as to the poor whites of the 
South. I recognize that the bulk of my audi- 
ences must be introduced, by degrees, to the finer 
composers. By this method, hearing a song or 
two at a time, they unconsciously gain some com- 
prehension of this class of music. In a phrase: 
though not so informed, they are being musi- 
cally educated. 

"Six years ago, when I began extensively to 
appear in the United States in concerts, my object 
was to please my auditors. I have stated before, 
in this book, that the greatest things are the sim- 
plest. That sounds paradoxical, in a way; but 
I will explain by saying that the most difficult, 
phrase to sing is one in which one tone is joined 
to another in a manner that allows no break 
what we call cantilena or legato. So, with the 
song, it requires the more consummate art to 
interpret the pure and melodiously simple song 
than that which jumps about, and thereby allows 
for the concealing of defects. 

"I felt, six years ago, that I could develop a 
following only by giving people what they wanted 



to hear; thereby prompting those people to tell 
their friends of the pleasure they had thus de- 
rived, and by this process I would, in time, find 
numerous adherents and be serving them in a 
useful way. 

"My success as a singer of songs had always 
been rather pronounced. So many people had 
told me that my singing gave them great pleas- 
ure that I finally concluded that, perhaps, my 
mission was to extend that singing so that the 
largest number possible might hear. 

"That first season of Ninteen Twelve and Thir- 
teen decided me. My audiences grew in size and 
in appreciation and I then felt it no assumption 
to devote myself, primarily, to giving my follow- 
ing what was wanted. 

"Further evidence which seemed to confirm 
my feelings in these respects were steadily piling 
up. Some of it came from serious musicians 
Fritz Kreisler, and others who frankly told me 
that I touched them with my interpretations of 
those simple ballads, which have been unjustly 
called meretricious. I needed no more than such 
admissions, from musicians brave enough to make 
them, to strengthen my determination. 

"Lest there be a misunderstanding I want to 


make myself clear on the subject of the simple 
song, which has sentiment. By such songs I em- 
phatically do not mean trash of the order which 
many Americans know as 'popular.' The songs 
like those of Stephen Foster are what I refer to ; 
and their beauties are unquestioned because they 
have endured and because they unfailingly arouse 
our sincere emotions. 

"If a man or a woman does not happen to 
understand a Bach fugue it does not follow that 
the man or woman has no perception of musical 
beauty. The musical potentiality may be there, 
without having been cultivated. Give it food 
and light and air, in the form of understandable 
songs sung in a language that the hearer knows, 
and the hearer comes to appreciate and, pres- 
ently, begins to acquire musical intelligence. 

"But and this I hold to be vitally important 
the song must be sung to people in their own 
tongue, and with an enunciation that makes every 
word understood. In the United States English 
is the language I use; and no inconsiderable part 
of the enjoyment my audiences derive from my 
singing is attributable to this ability to 'get' each 
word. For without conveying the words every 
word the heart of the song is not there. And 



when you take the heart away from anything you 
kill it." 

So extensive had been the disucssion as to Mc- 
Cormack's own enjoyment of the simple songs he 
uses that I was moved to ask him, and to want 
information, too, on the character of songs he best 

He did not hesitate. From his chair he rose 
to his feet, quickly, and began to pace between 
one spot and another which is a habit when he 
is discussing a subject that interests him. "I 
like the songs of simple melody," he declared, 
"and with simple harmonic construction. I 
mean, of course, the finer examples of such songs, 
in which the melodic line has genuine beauty and 
the treatment is of proportionate value. 

"But I take the musician's enjoyment in com- 
positions of breadth. Take, for purposes of 
illustration, a comparatively unknown oratorio of 
Mozart's 'Davidde penitente.' This is one of 
the several unique works that I have discovered 
this summer (1918). And it is one of the 
most suavely glorious compositions I have ever 

"There is a tenor aria called 'Bei dir, o Quell 
des Lebens' which taxes the resources of the 



singer to his extreme limits. One must sing it; 
there is no opportunity for slighting so much, 
even, as a single phrase. Broad cantilena, dra- 
matic emphasis . . . and vocal agility, too. 
There is little in the direction of pure singing 
which Mozart does not demand of whoever would 
interpret it adequately. 

"And the trio ('Wohl dem, der auf den 
Herrn') written for an unusual combination of 
voices: two sopranos and tenor. That is a trio 
which cannot be sung save by those who have 
voice, musicianship and art. 

"Mozart drew his material for 'Davidde peni- 
tente' from his last unfinished mass. He wrote 
the Italian words below the Latin and added two 

new airs." 

But McCormack admires every fine song clas- 
sic, no matter what the school. Schubert, Bee- 
thoven, Bach, Schumann, Hugo Wolf and the 
representative French, English and American 
composers. His taste knows no nationality; it is 
towards the merit of what has been written, that 
his taste inclines. And anyone who has heard 
his delivery of "Waft Her, Angels," and other 
oratorio masterpieces, must appreciate his versa- 



In McCormack's judgment the greatest song 
ever composed is Schubert's "Die Allmacht," 
for which an adequate English translation is 
"Omnipotence." "It is a flood of exaltation," 
declared the tenor, his eyes shining, "the outpour- 
ing, in music, of a poet's soul. Still, my per- 
sonal preference over any other song is for 
'Die Mainacht' (A Night in May), by Brahms. 
Then there is 'Der Dichterliebe,' with the tender 
love poems of Heine as the musical basis; and 
there is much else, besides. 

"I might go on, rather extensively, in a dis- 
cussion as to songs, songs of every nationality; 
but it would make reading for the musicians, I 
fear, rather than for the general public for 
which this volume is primarily intended. 

"America, I am glad to say, is making strides 
in its creative musical side. Many gifted com- 
posers are of the United States. And all they 
need is time, and a recognition which will encour- 
age them, to place their works eventually along- 
side some of the great works of their colleagues 
of other lands. 

"As in my plea for giving a chance to the 
American singer, I feel, quite as keenly, upon the 
opportunities that should be placed in the way 



of American composers. Their efforts should 
invite an outspoken attitude of willingness to hear 
what is new; not an attitude of expecting some- 
thing of inferior character. 

"If the people will but remember that it takes 
a country longer to develop its creative side than 
it does its interpretative they may come to a 
clearer appreciation of the situation and, that 
reached, govern themselves to a constructive 
rather than a destructive end. 

"After all," said John, looking with unseeing 
eyes across the sloping lawn towards the water, 
"we should try, in this life, to help one another. 
There is too great a tendency to criticise for the 
sake of saying something 'superficially smart.' 
And it only hurts, and does no good. Americans 
are admittedly fair sportsmen and I should like 
to see a trifle more of that fairness exercised in 
the treatment of their own musicians : composers 
as well as singers and instrumentalists. 

"Personally, I do not care for the music of 
Debussy, because I miss the note of sincerity in 
his work. Yet I would feel guilty if I were to 
find fault with what he has done in words ungra- 
cious. Ravel I do admire, immensely, and 
Strauss ; there is a master. 



"But when I get to talking on this subject I 
never fail to think of what George Bernard Shaw 
said, replying to the question, 'Who is the 
greatest musician?' 'Beethoven,' said Shaw, 
'but Mozart was the only musician.' 

"We are, however, on the right road so far 
as the American in music is concerned. It will 
be some years, no doubt, before he gets his dues, 
yet they surely will come; for the American has 
the musical talent." 




"Now for the music critics!" I said, as John 
and I came out upon the veranda at Rocklea one 
August morning. "Shall we have them shot at 
sunrise, or frizzle 'em in boiling oil?" 

"Oh, let's give them a banquet and invite all 
to sing, together, 'The Soldiers' Chorus' from 

"Then you don't hate them?" I queried. 

"On the contrary," replied the tenor, settling 
into his chair, "they light the way for me. There 
are exceptions; once in a while you find a self- 
opinionated youth who wishes to teach the world, 
who misuses his power who incorrectly assumes 
his functions to consist chiefly of emphasizing 
one's faults, of exaggerating faults of slight con- 
sequence. Some few critics, also, occasionally 
attend a concert or opera performance in a bel- 
ligerent mood ; or, feeling out of sorts, lapse from 
their habitual fairness. 



"But the majority, I have found, strive sin- 
cerely to judge without prejudice or bias, and 
write their reviews accordingly. They wield an 
unquestioned weight, the critics, and are an abso- 
lute necessity some would say a necessary 
evil and I believe most of them try to give, as 
accurately as they can, an honest estimate of 
what they hear. 

"Constructive criticism, offered by one skilled 
in the craft, is of inestimable help to the artist; 
and no singer or instrumentalist who earnestly 
seeks to progress in his art will resent an intel- 
ligently and kindly expressed opinion upon tech- 
nical and interpretative musical achievement 
which happens to take issue with that achieve- 
ment. And, to be honest, we resent it mostly 
because it hurts our vanity. 

"The critic may, in the estimation of the artist, 
be right; or his views may be open to question 
on the part of the artist. After all, it is only 
one person's opinion, and may differ from the 
opinions of that critic's colleagues. But I 
always read, with an open mind, whatever a 
music critic writes who, I feel, in the reading, 
has written constructively and out of adequate 



"Do you regard it as an essential part of the 
music critic's equipment to be able to perform 
the thing about which he writes?" 

McCormack dropped his head to one side and 
regarded me with gravity. Ready with his reply 
he waited to frame it in certain desired phrase- 
ology. "No, I don't think such a thing is neces- 
sary, but it must have been wonderful," said the 
tenor reflectively, "for Schumann to have been 
able as we know he was to write of a new 
composition, adversely, and say with the full au- 
thority which was his: 'Now if / had written 
that composition it might have sounded better to 
have done so-and-so.' Think, too, of the advan- 
tage the composer thus criticised must have de- 
rived from such constructive criticism. Such a 
music critic, granting he possesses the judicial 
temperament, has an advantage over others not 
so fortunate. There can be no dispute, I think, 
as to that; yet a critic may not have such a gift 
and still be highly competent. 

"To be endowed with the capacity to weigh 
impartially all the evidence pertaining to a musi- 
cal performance, eliminating one's personal pref- 
erences and dislikes, is ideal. We'll accept that 
as an established premise. Now where such 



qualifications exist in a critic, and to them is 
added the natural faculty of recognizing excel- 
lence and mediocrity instinctively, we have the 
perfect critic. 

"I remember a story I once heard, and a true 
one. It happened in Chicago, years ago. A dis- 
tinguished American composer, at that time music 
critic for a Chicago evening newspaper, reached 
his office one afternoon and in the hallway met the 
critic for the morning newspaper which was under 
the same ownership. The critic for the morning 
paper had just been appointed; moved over from 
another position on the staff of that publication. 
He was an able editor, a splendid writer; but he 
admitted, frankly, that music was to him as Greek 
might be to a baby. 

"The composer-critic had read his associate's 
review of a performance, given the night before, 
by the American Grand Opera Company. Theo- 
dore Thomas had been the conductor; the work, 
by Delibes. The composer was asked by the 
newly appointed critic: 'How did you like last 
night's performance?' 

' 'I thought it exceptional, as I did the opera,' 
he replied. 

6 'So did I,' retorted the unskilled music judge. 


1 'But,' ejaculated the musician, 'you roasted 
everything, from Delibes down.' 

' 'Oh, I had to do that; I went there to criti- 

"Nevertheless," declared the tenor as he 
straightened up in his chair, "I respect the opin- 
ions of every critic who goes about his task with 
good intent and makes a respectable job of it. I 
may differ from him, in details, possibly, at times, 
in essentials ; but so long as I discern sincerity in 
his trend, and intelligence, I will concede that he 
has the same right to his ways of thinking in the 
matter as I have to mine. For, after all, it is a 
difference of opinion that provokes the discus- 
sion (or thought) which leads to progress. 

"Now and again one encounters the 'cock- 
sure' reviewer ; the one of positive utterance, who 
considers himself infallible, and takes himself, 
also, with far more seriousness than his impor- 
tance should allow. He writes to catch certain 
of his readers with clever phrase; hitting here 
and there with unkindness, and very often taking 
the heart of a struggling artist who might be cor- 
rected were the reminder of remissness put in a 
helpful way. 

"Still, his kind is beginning to disappear. He 


is of the old school, grown ancient in his trade 
and myopic through having too long looked in a 
groove because of the blinders of traditions he 
has worn. 

"Give me, if you will, the joyous reviewer; the 
one having in him human responsiveness and ap- 
preciation, who has the courage to say 'great' if 
he really thinks so, even though others hold a 
contrary view. He may be either old or young; 
I care not, so long as he goes to a musical per- 
formance in a plastic mood, ready to be convinced 
if the music and performer have merit. 

"But, as I said in the beginning, I genuinely 
admire the critics, as a body. They have given 
me my dues. We send them tickets for a con- 
cert, voluntarily ask them to come and write about 
it, and it is we who must take our chances. And 
I wouldn't give a fig for any man who, admiring 
my voice and art, refused because of his admira- 
tion to say I had not done myself justice if such 
were the case. For that happens; singers are 
human beings, and not being machines they can- 
not, and should not, be expected to perform with 
mechanical accuracy which does not vary. 

"Especially do I respect the representative 
critics, serving on the leading daily newspapers 



in the large American cities, who have expressed 
their growing regard for my voice and art and 
programmes. These men, all of them splendidly 
equipped and speaking from an abundant knowl- 
edge, are the recognized authorities. They are 
not infallible, because, like the singer or instru- 
mentalist, they are only human. They speak 
well and at other times they also speak not so 
well of great artists : of Caruso and Kreisler and 
Hofmann. So it is with pride that I have dis- 
covered my own position and powers enhancing 
in their estimation; for that is a reward to any 
artist who conscientiously wishes to be accepted 
as such by those who are presumed to know." 

It is a fair summing up of the critics and their 
functions, which McCormack has made. I can 
conceive of none, in the whole corps of the coun- 
try, who will justly dispute the essence of what 
he has said. And at no time in his talk did he 
mention by name any critic whom he in particu- 
lar admired, or one who may have drawn his dis- 

Yet, much as he respects those whose musical 
education and geographical opportunities give 
them an advantage over their less fortunate col- 
leagues, John has a weak spot in his heart for 



the writers attached to dailies outside the larger 
sphere; for the men and women who perform 
other newspaper duties than those exclusively 
musical, and whose writings are out of the heart 
rather than a musically trained mind. 

It would be interesting to incorporate in 
this volume a hundred representative critiques. 
They would make illuminative reading, to many. 
But space is a consideration to be heeded. 




One of those drizzly rains, that tend to stir the 
reflections of a thoughtful person, was falling over 
Noroton. McCormack sat on the veranda, at 
Rocklea, engaged with Edwin Schneider in an 
informal discussion on songs. The pianist ex- 
cused himself when the subject had been ended, 
and went into the house. When he disappeared, 
the tenor turned to me. 

"Do you wonder that I'm fond of him? A 
combination of man and musician," he said, 
"which is out of the common run. I've known 
him, intimately, for five years. We've wintered 
and summered together, and our friendship tie 
tightens. That is the real test to develop the 
feeling of comradeship as well as artistic unity, 
with one who is almost constantly alongside. 

"I've said that my intimates are few: a com- 
paratively small number of persons, living in dif- 
ferent lands. Perhaps it is just as well, for those 
I feel close to I like to be with as much as I can, 



and this precludes a large friendship even where 
one's inclinations move in that way. But there 
is one man whose companionship I particularly 
enjoy Edwin Schneider. 

"He is totally different from me, temperamen- 
tally. Almost always serene, an optimist every 
day of every week and, for all his virility, gentle. 
Schneider is what I should term a gentle-man. 
A scholarly musician, too, and a student; and 
with original ideas. Thank fortune, he is not a 
hidebound adherent to tradition ! He has vision, 
and he likes the things musical which I like. So, 
you see, we fit: in music as well as in less artistic 
things of life. 

"It was a fortunate day for me, when I met 
him, because he has exerted a positive influence 
upon my career. No one has had a greater faith 
in my capabilities, even when I was in doubt 
about some part of them, myself. From his 
point of vantage, and with his intuitive faculties 
and discernment, Schneider has not infrequently 
observed that it was wise for me to attempt what 
I hesitated attempting. And never has his judg- 
ment been at fault. 

"His confidence in me, always so reassuringly 
calm, has been like a tonic. Knowing that he 



recommends only that which he honestly believes, 
I invite his opinions. We differ in matters, of 
course, and that is as it should be. Still, in 
whatever is vital I think we are not often at odds. 

"Before Ted" (that is John's name for Schnei- 
der) "came to me I questioned the suitableness, 
for my voice and style, of certain songs. I recall, 
in particular, 'J'ai pleure enreve.' My previous 
accompanist had said: 'That isn't for you.' 
But one day, chancing upon it, Ted suggested 
that we try it over. I repeated what this other 
pianist had said. It had no effect, however, 
upon Schneider. He only said, with a smile, 'I 
think he is mistaken.' So we went at it." 

My recollection was that this song was one 
which McCormack sang exceedingly well ; almost 
made for him. I said so, and John nodded. 

"That's just it," he continued. "Schneider's 
perceptions were correct. And that experience 
gave me added confidence in him. Nor was that 
instance the single one of its kind; others oc- 
curred. Ted studied my methods ; he sought to 
discover what was best suited to me, in the way 
of songs, and was forever conscientious to aid 
me in developing my resources. 

"Sympathy, such as that, and understanding 


bring the singer and his accompanist into that 
spirit of harmony which contributes to a oneness 
of effort. There is a saying one often hears 
about accompanist that he 'follows' well. That, 
to my mind, is no compliment to an accompanist ; 
for he should never 'follow,' nor yet 'lead.' Al- 
ways, should he be with the singer with the piano- 
forte part of a song; feeling as the singer feels 
(in so far as he may be able to do so) and main- 
taining the spirit of the music and that reflected 
in the poem. 

"I always feel that we go well together in a 
song. If I want to 'give' a little here, or 'take' 
a bit at another place, Schneider will be with 
me . . . will sense what I am about to do so 
quickly as to give the audience the effect of in- 
stantaneous action by each of us. I do change 
an interpretation, now and again, no matter how 
'set' it may have been as sung scores of times be- 
fore. Every artist does, who feels what he inter- 
prets; that is what keeps him from being a ma- 
chine. It is a comfort to know that when these 
changes occur and they may come many times 
in the course of a concert that the chap at the 
piano, who supplies the musical background, will 
not drop you suddenly, with a thud. 



"The critics everywhere have recognized these 
rare qualities in Schneider. He has a singing 
touch, and a legato. His accompaniment is 
something built in right proportions, like a piece 
of architecture which leaves the eye satisfied. 
You never find Ted's accompaniment obtrusive; 
he gives the singer the required tonal substance 
for the voice, but not too much. And his pianis- 
simi is not so vapory as to be lost on the hearer. 

"He colors the tone, too. Sonority, when we 
want it ; a rich, pulsating tone, one with less 'red' 
in it, another having mellowness but not so deeply 
tinted. Again: crispness, the brilliance that 
brings people erect when we seek a definite sort 
of climax. He uses the pianoforte for song ac- 
companiments as the painter uses the pigments 
upon his palette. His technique, likewise, is 
ample ; and his musicianship sound. 

"I met him, in Chicago, one morning when I 
went to call on that splendid American singer, 
Clarence Whitehill, who was preparing, in the 
Blackstone Hotel, for a recital he expected to 
give. I liked Schneider's way of playing during 
the first song Whitehill sang; before I left I dis- 
covered characteristics which appealed tremen- 
dously to me. Making inquiry, I learned that 



Schneider had played for Marcella Sembrich, 
Johanna Gadski and George Hamlin. I learned, 
too, of his thorough pianistic training, much of 
it gained in Europe ; of his recognition as a solo 
pianist and as teacher. 

"But the difficult art of song accompaniment 
and it is an art, which, by the way, few pianists 
acquire was Schneider's by instinct. The 
singer gets that the minute he starts a prelude. 
What my estimation of his ability is may be gath- 
ered from the fact that we have been together for 
five continuous seasons ; nearly five hundred pub- 
lic appearances we've made together, and that 
tells the story. 

"In the summers we ransack the music stores 
in search of unusual song compositions, and libra- 
ries. And Schneider knows the song literature 
of many countries. He makes something of the 
accompaniment as distinctive as the melody for 
the voice because of his comprehensive knowl- 
edge of song literature. Every composer is 
something more than an acquaintance; for 
Schneider does not rest content until he plumbs 
that composer. 

"His equals as a 'coach' are few because of 
these qualifications I have mentioned. Having 


(At top") John McCormack and his accompanist, Edwin Schneider 

(Centre) Bishop Curley with Gwendolyn and Cyril, photographed on the occasion of 

his confirmation of the two children in the little Catholic Church at 

Noroton, Connecticut, in June, 1917 
(Beltrw) From left to right: John McCormack, D. F. McSweeney, Bishop Curley 


gone to the root of every school of song composi- 
tion he continues to that end with each member 
of each school. When he has finished one may 
be sure that Schneider knows ; he isn't guessing, 
or relying, too largely, upon an accompanying 

"He composes well, also, and several of his 
songs are among the most satisfying on my pro- 

Schneider rejoined us at that moment, just as 
McCormack finished speaking. The tenor left 
us, on some errand within, and I was glad of the 
opportunity to get his ideas on John those 
intimate ones which he, of all persons, was able 
to supply. 

"I came to McCormack," said Schneider, "a 
worshipper at the shrine of his voice and art; I 
have played for no one else since that spring of 
Nineteen Thirteen. I have watched him grow, 
and seen his capacities expand with as much 
gratification as though he were a brother. His 
triumphs though his alone are mine, also. 

"It has been one of the most interesting experi- 
ences in my life to observe his 'education' of his 
audiences, because educate them he has. 

"The presentation of Schubert, Schumann and 


Franch at his concerts was followed by the intro- 
duction to most of his hearers of Brahms and 
Hugo Wolf, and the modern German songs and 
the Russian and French. He insisted on using 
the best English translations obtainable, because 
he rightly places emphasis on an understanding 
of the text. And in many cases we together 
made our own translations, especially those of 
Rachmaninoff's songs. 

"Handel and Mozart have a direct appeal upon 
John because of their lyric and florid qualities; 
and I cannot now think of a better exponent of 
these two masters. But his grasp of Irish folk- 
songs, and his interpretation of them, are things 
I never cease to admire. He has opened to me 
the wealth of this music, and it has made it pos- 
sible for me to appreciate why the Irish are so 
musical and so endowed with sympathy and sen- 

"This summer, like each of the preceding 
ones I have spent with McCormack, has brought 
hundreds of unknown songs to his notice; and 
we have gone through them with open minds that 
seek to find whatever we consider worthy of pub- 
lic use. Since the war began, John has been 
chiefly concerned in exploring the song literature 



of France, Russia and Norway, and many fine 
compositions has he discovered. 

"There is, of course, a mass of 'popular' music 
sent to him in manuscript form most of it, I am 
sorry to say, unsuitable for John's purposes. 

"The budding Schubert has certainly weird 
ideas of the songs that suit McCormack. I re- 
member how we laughed over two wonderful 
specimens, called respectively 'In the Subway,' 
and 'Has the State of Montana Gone Dry, Mary 
Anne?' The author of this last priceless lyric 
announced himself as a great poet and was sure 
with the co-operation of a great singer, he could 
make what he called 'the big noise in the music 

"I can add little or nothing to the critical and 
public estimate of John McCormack's artistic 
worth. For me he is a supremely great artist 
because of his sincerity. Nor do I place either 
voice or the singing talent above this quality; 
for without that depth of feeling which is his, 
John could not, and would not, be the singer we 
know him to be. 

"For rapid study I know no singer who is Mc- 
Cormack's equal. During his first Covent 
Garden season, John learned in exactly six days 



the role of Don Ottavio in 'Don Giovanni.' He 
began to study it on a Monday and sang the music 
the Monday following. Nor have I yet met one 
who reads at sight with his facility or whose musi- 
cianship rests upon a more substantial founda- 
tion. He is as painstaking as he is thorough, and 
delights to run through any soprano aria of the old 
masters. He is a master of vocal agility and his 
execution of florid phrases is accomplished with 
the ease and surety of a coloratura soprano who 
is mistress of her art. 

"To play for John, in both rehearsal and pub- 
lic performance, is an inspiration. He develops 
in the accompanist the spirit of what is best and 
truest in the art. From him I have learned 
much; I expect to learn more. Having been 
with him so continuously for five years, I have 
come to know the man as well as the artist. And 
I have felt what one friend feels for another in 
seeing him win what he has deserved. 

"As I see him now I feel that he is coming into 
the fullness of his powers. He has done much, 
but he will do more. His artistry is ripening and 
his vision enables him to foresee all that he 
should. Because of these things I anticipate 
from John McCormack certain accomplishments 



that will make his name still more widely ac- 
claimed for he is the sort of singing artist the 
world brings forth but once in a long, long time." 




It was a few days after the Rt. Reverend 
Bishop Curley had confirmed Cyril and Gwen- 
dolyn McCormack, in late June of Nineteen 
Eighteen, in the tiny stone church in Noroton, 
that he spoke of John McCormack and his voice 
in a way I shall never forget. He termed it a 
service of the voice the dedication of soul and 
heart and mind and utterance to a lofty purpose. 
That, I think, is the most expressive description 
I have ever heard of the man and his mission. 

The Bishop had been recounting some of the 
attributes of his boyhood chum; had been giv- 
ing me illuminative information which could not 
have been gathered from any save one who had 
grown up with John, and enjoyed, always, his 
absolute confidence. Much that I have been 
enabled accurately to set forth in this volume 
about McCormack and which he, himself, never 
would have hinted at was thus made possible. 



With Bishop Cur ley it was a labor of love ; for 
to him John McCormack is the sun in the sky. 

The service of the voice. That phrase, more 
fittingly than any other I know, opened the gates 
of my understanding. It clarified one's mental 
search for the element, or elements, which have 
lifted McCormack above others who have also 
had voice and the gift of song. For to him there 
was given all things necessary to make him what 
Bishop Curley, in his gently suggestive way, 
meant me to grasp that he is the prophet of 

Out of his knowledge gained in his college 
days ; of his studies, among the many he mastered, 
of Irish literature; and of the folk-songs of his 
native land, too, John brought an abundance of 
the mind to each interpretation and joined it with 
that of the heart. Neither, without the other, 
could have served; and to these two the adding 
of the McCormack voice made a trinity. 

All of this Bishop Curley made plain to me. 
I comprehended, then, why the people (and the 
musicians, also) receive a McCormack message, 
why he interprets the poet, no less than the com- 
poser; and what it is that stirs the pulses when 
he sings. The service of the voice in speech 



and song is the thing John McCormack has 
been given to do. 

Having grasped these matters it did not sur- 
prise me, when one who had been in that gath- 
ering on the lawn of George Washington's home, 
at Mount Vernon, Fourth of July, 1918, told me 
of the effect John had made upon them when 
he sang "The Star-Spangled Banner." I was 
able, thus, to gather the full of McCormack's 
simple statement when I asked him what Presi- 
dent Wilson had said to him, after he finished. 

"I stood very near to the President," said the 
tenor, "while I sang. Never did patriotism surge 
within me as on that day. One felt the dignity, 
the majesty, of the occasion. And the Presi- 
dent's speech left my soul fired. I saw noth- 
ing, heard nothing, felt nothing but the grandeur 
of what the poem meant. My eyes were closed 
all the while I sang. 

"There was a brief silence at the end. Then 
President Wilson stepped a few paces to where 
I stood, and took my hand and pressed it 
fervently, it seemed to me. 'I never heard "The 
Star-Spangled Banner" sung, Mr. McCormack, 
as you just sang it! And I thank you from the 
bottom of my heart.' ' 



And it is somewhat odd, in view of what Bishop 
Curley told me, that President Wilson, on the 
way down the Potomac, aboard the Presidential 
yacht, Mayflower, should have discussed, at 
length, with McCormack the subject of voice. 

I should have liked to hear more extensively 
from John concerning that experience, but he 
hesitated to say more than just those few words. 
To him, no doubt, it appeared something to feel 
rather than to discuss. 

We were approaching the last stages in the 
preparation of this volume when McCormack 
touched upon that Independence Day Mt. Vernon 
experience of his. Mrs. McCormack, Miss 
Foley, Cyril and Gwen and Edwin Schneider had 
gone to the tennis court, and the tenor let his 
thoughts drift to matters he had not already 
spoken about. 

Never having been in his New York City home, 
in Fifty-seventh Street (near Central Park), I 
had not seen some of the art treasures he has 

"I had always wanted to have about me some 
really fine canvases," he said. "My natural love 
for the beautiful had been cultivated during my 
studies in Milan; you will recall I spent much 



of my time in the ^Galleria. The influence of 
everything in painting, sculpture and architec- 
ture that is beautiful benefits the singer, just as 
the best in literature does. 

"To one who is as sensitive to environment 
as I, it is helpful to have about as much repre- 
sentative of the arts as one consistently can. I 
have a fondness for rare violins, too. But some 
of my paintings give me the deepest pleasure. 
One room, alone, is given over to Rembrandt and 
other masterpieces. There hangs the portrait of 
'Rembrandt's Sister.' Rembrandt did it in Six- 
teen Forty-two. There is much history sur- 
rounding it Gwen and Cyril can tell you all 
the details. 

"My 'Nymphs Bathing' is one of the best speci- 
mens of Corot I have seen. I always admired 
Blakelock, too, and when I found an opportunity 
to pick up a representative canvas I didn't hesi- 
tate long. There's a nice landscape by J. Francis 
Murphy, and a quaint painting, of two peasants, 
by David Teniers. I have other canvases, not 
so fine as some of the rest, but containing for 
me a wealth of sentiment ; they are by Mary Car- 
lisle scenes of Ireland, with the flowers of Ire- 



land almost with the radiance of their natural 

"They are all friends, now; sometimes they 
seem fairly to talk to me. Then there is the 
portrait Walter Dean Grosbeck did of Mrs. Mc- 
Cormack; the 'Romeo and Juliet' statue which 
Rodin made, and one in which his genius shows 
in each detail. Two marble busts, as well, of 
Cyril and Gwen, which Mario Korbel did two 
years ago." 

"A pretentious start," I ventured. 

"Interesting," agreed McCormack, "and giv- 
ing one a pleasure in the ownership which, some- 
how, doesn't come when you see works in a gal- 
lery which are just as fine. For the beauties 
in a picture, or any other masterpiece of an art, 
arise through understanding. At first you form 
its acquaintance, then you become a 'friend.' 

"Take the original manuscript of Eugene 
Field's 'Little Boy Blue,' which I bought for my 
kiddies: a glow comes over me when I take it 
in my hands, to read. And both Cyril and Gwen 
learned the words from those very words which 
Field penned with his own hand. 

"A genuine pleasure comes to me," said Me- 


Cormack, "through the letters I get from mem- 
bers of what I might call my 'invisible audience' ; 
those who hear me oftenest through the phono- 

One can understand the tenor's feeling, in this 
respect. Of all singers, his "invisible audience" 
is largest; probably the most loyal. The total 
of McCormack records sold each year by the Vic- 
tor company is astonishing; some idea of their 
quantity may be gathered from the fact that 
John's last year's royalties from this source is 
considerable the tenor preferred not to state 
the sum. 

In every land one may find McCormack "fans" 
which is a proper word to apply to those who 
go regularly, each month, to purchase the new- 
est McCormack record. The tenor's contract 
stipulates that he shall make five records of new 
songs every year, but he always exceeds that num- 

C. G. Child, in charge of the department which 
has to do with the artists singing for the Victor 
Talking Machine Company, might explain why 
he wants more, and yet more, McCormack 
"master-records" from which those sold to the 
public are made. 



"I always enjoy my trips to Camden, (New 
Jersey) , for Child is a staunch friend and sympa- 
thetic. Making a record is no easy accomplish- 
ment. Infinite patience is required to secure a 
'master-record' which has no flaw. On occasions 
I re-make a record several times before Child and 
I are satisfied; and during these difficult mo- 
ments he is always by my side, encouraging and 
helping as he so well can. 

"The 'Jocelyn' lullaby, of all the records I 
have made (I believe they number one hundred 
and twenty) , is my favorite. Somehow it seems 
to lend itself completely to phonographic repro- 
duction, and the obligato, by Kreisler, discloses 
that artist at his best. Then there is The Trum- 
peter.' 'Mother Machree,' 'Mavis' and 'I Hear 
You Calling Me' are all popular with the public ; 
so is 'Ah! Moon of My Delight.' 

"Every little while," said the tenor, "some ex- 
perience I have with one of my 'invisible audi- 
ence' makes my heart beat faster. Three years 
ago, in Hartford, a gentleman was brought to 
my dressing-room, after the concert. He was one 
of Connecticut's representative business men. 
He had, he said, a message to deliver personally 
to me from his mother, who was an invalid and 



unable to attend my concert. Having obtained 
a programme, in advance, of what I was an- 
nounced to sing, she arranged one of her own 
(to be performed through the medium of my 
phonograph records), had printed copies made, 
issued tickets of admission to her home to her 
friends, and began the 'invisible audience' con- 
cert at the precise minute my own, in Hartford, 
was scheduled to commence. My caller had a 
request to make of me : he wanted an autographed 
photograph, for his mother." 

The tenor seemed a trifle sad this day. When 
he talked about some few, who are dead, he so- 
bered, but he would brighten, in recalling to his 
mind his experiences with certain living person- 

"I am a devoted admirer of Theodore Roose- 
velt," said John, "and his autographed picture 
which hangs in the hall is a gift I prize. He is 
a tremendous force, and I think he more faith- 
fully typifies America than any man I have met. 
One of the most difficult tasks I ever undertook 
was writing my letter of condolence in his loss of 
his brave son, Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt. 
Yet the reply he sent me was characteristic of 
his capacity to accept with the fortitude of a great 



nature what must have been one of his severest 

"Another great man for whom my admiration 
is unbounded is His Eminence, Cardinal Gib- 
bons. And an incident at one of my concerts 
which he attended will always make me feel closer 
to him than had it not occurred. He makes it 
an invariable rule never to remain at a function 
or entertainment later than nine o'clock in the 
evening. On this occasion, when he prepared 
to leave the auditorium, he discovered the time 
to be twenty minutes of ten; and I am told that 
he remarked that he had forgotten, in listening 
to my singing, all about the hour." The same 
thing happened at Ocean Grove August 17, 
1918, when Cardinal Gibbons attended a McCor- 
mack concert. 

"I lost a friend," said John with a trace of 
longing in his voice, "in the death of Archbishop 
Ryan. I lunched with him only a short time be- 
fore he died, and I remember clearly the brilli- 
ance of his mind, which fascinated me as I sat 
there, and his gift of repartee. Few others pos- 
sessed it in the degree he did." 

Later, with the inclination to talk returned, 
McCormack perceptibly brightened. 



"Former President Taft is a man I deem it an 
honor to know. His friendship means some- 
thing, to me particularly because of the way we 
met. It was during my first appearance with 
the Manhattan Opera Company in Washington, 
on which occasion we played for a week to the 
varied and brilliant audiences always character- 
istic of the national capital, that I received in my 
dressing-room a visit from Mr. Taft's then mili- 
tary aide, Captain Archie Butt. Butt and I 
afterwards became intimate friends, and his 
death was a shock from which I did not easily 

"I remember, as though it were yesterday, what 
Archie said as he stood and delivered President 
Taft's message. 'The President would like you 
to lunch with him to-morrow at the White House.' 

"At first I could not believe that I had under- 
stood correctly, and informed my visitor that 
there must be some mistake. I can see him now, 
standing before me with a smile, and replying: 
'No, there is no mistake. The President would 
be pleased to have John McCormack take lunch 
with him to-morrow.' 

"It is not exaggeration when I say that I was 


dubious even as I made my way through the presi- 
dential grounds to the White House itself. 

"During the years that I knew Archie we 
lunched together, often, when he came over to 
New York. It was usually in the Waldorf-As- 
toria grill. The last time we met in this way he 
said to me: 'It's peculiar, John, how friend- 
ships grow out of chance meetings ; I believe we 
shall be friends all our lives.' And shortly after, 
when I endeavored to reach him by 'phone during 
a brief stay in Washington, I was told that he 
had just left for Rome. Not long after, as we 
know, he was among those who lost their lives 
in the sinking of the Titanic. But there is a 
great consolation in the thought that he died as 
he lived a true American gentleman. 

"Among the men who are doing things to- 
day, and have done them in the past, Melville 
Stone, general manager of The Associated Press, 
is prominent. His mind is tremendous, his 
judgment and discretion such that the foremost 
in administering the affairs of many nations give 
him their confidence and hold his opinions in 
profound respect. I am proud to have Mr. Stone 
as friend, and of the honors tendered me I count 



the dinner he gave me at the Lotus Club, in New 
York, as one of the highest." 

John spoke feelingly of many people that aft- 
ernoon. For nearly all he held kindly thoughts, 
and for some affection. A few he mentioned 
in a regretful way, though without censure. I 
sensed that the tenor would rather have had them 
persons of a different sort; and I think he was 
sorry for them. He showed, during my many 
talks with him, a commendable attitude of toler- 
ance toward those he might have felt tempted 
to criticize. There were few instances wherein 
he disclosed in speech displeasure with another's 
actions, and at those times he would conclude 
with some such expression as, "But that is his 
misfortune; I suppose one should make allow- 


I left him, when I started for New York, seated 
alone on the veranda. He didn't rise. His gaze 
was directed towards the beach where the swim- 
mers were. I called a "So-long, John!" as I 
reached the screen door, which caused him to look 
over at me and smile. "So-long," he replied, 
"see you Thursday." 




It was morning, on the twelfth day of August, 
Nineteen Hundred Eighteen. The prostrating 
heat of the week previous had broken, leaving 
those of us in and about New York somewhat 
limp and with an eye to approaching September 
and a hope that it would bring permanent cool- 
ness. I had taken an early train leaving the 
Grand Central Station for Stamford. At ten 
o'clock I had finished my shaky ride, in a small 
car of a famous make, from the Stamford station 
to Rocklea. I stepped out upon the ground and 
across under the shallow portico which shelters 
the McCormack doorway. 

Gwenny caught sight of me, from the living- 
room, and saved my touching the bell. She 
came and opened the door, her face aglow and 
her eyes snapping in the vigor of perfect health 
of a ten-year-old miss. 

"Papa's waiting," she announced, "and an 


oyster barge's burning over at the island across 
the Sound and we're going over and you'll have 
to come along and " 

She declaimed it all in a breath, her features 
rosy from much and sudden physical effort which 
had sent her into a costume appropriate for the 
anticipated adventure. But time, evidently, was 
an essential ; for she bolted with her sentence un- 
finished and leaped from the veranda and ran 
across the lawn. I had followed less impulsively 
and had half crossed the living-room when Cyril 
burst upon the scene, duplicating the excitement 
of his sister. 

"She's burning!" he cried, "and the men 
jumped overboard. Come on!" 

I counseled a curbing of his impetuous spirit 
to which he flung, over his shoulder, a reply I did 
not get. But I paused, at the doorway leading 
to the veranda, and watched. Hard after the 
children ran the two smallest dogs, Towser, the 
woolly dog, and Go-Go, the Peke. Then, from 
around a corner of the house, shot a streak. It 
was Nellie, the Belgian police-dog. Evidently 
the chase, in its entirety, was on. But, it ap- 
peared, my reasoning was premature, for a voice 
greeted me from behind and I turned to see Mrs. 



McCormack and Miss Foley making hurriedly for 
the veranda exit. 

With less visible excitement the ladies ap- 
prised me of the news and followed it with the 
information that they, also, were about to em- 
bark upon the expedition, in John's small boat 
which had a "kicker." 

"What!" I exclaimed. "You, too?" 

"Yes," replied Mrs. McCormack, "we two! 
Will you make it three?" 

"I'm a hard-working man," I objected. 

"That old book, I suppose. But come along, 
anyway. John will wait." 

I remembered the carrying capacity of the 
boat, and reminded Mrs. McCormack. I would 
be excess baggage, I opined, endangering the 
sea-worthiness of the craft. McCormack, hear- 
ing our voices and coming to investigate, ap- 
peared now before us. 

Mrs. McCormack, Miss Foley and I stole 
glances at one another and they waved their hands 
and departed, leaving John and me standing 
there. He watched them hurrying after the ad- 
vance guard and laughed. "Regular children," 
he murmured, "like the others." 

We went outside, where Schneider sat with 


his legs looped upon one arm of a wicker-chair, 
lolling over the morning paper. "Drop it," 
commanded John, "and get to work" meaning 
to join us in the concluding efforts of "copy" re- 
vision and the providing of the final material for 
John's book. Ted wriggled into a semblance of 
physical normality, wished me "howdy!" and 
obediently prepared to give himself to the task. 

For two hours we battled : John and Schneider 
and I alternately agreeing and disagreeing. It 
was over at last, and I put into my portfolio sun- 
dry sheets of paper and a sheaf of publisher's 

After luncheon, during which the sea-faring 
members of the McCormack family hurled at us 
details of their investigation of the still burning 
oyster-boat and the escape of its crew, John and 
I fared forth for a jaunt. His Ocean Grove (New 
Jersey) annual concert was five days off, the pe- 
riod of serious preparation with Schneider for his 
approaching season near at hand, and the tenor 
was in a serious mood. 

"It flies," he said soberly, meaning time. "It 
seems but yesterday that I finished last year's 
work; and an hour ago that I sang 'The Star- 
Spangled Banner' before President Wilson and 



his distinguished guests at Mount Vernon, on 
July Fourth." 

"Are you sorry?" 

"No. I wouldn't say that. I love my work; 
I'd be miserable without it. And my people 
they're mine, you know ... in a way, just as 
I am theirs. But each autumn it is harder to 
leave my family. I've never outgrown home- 
sickness, and never shall. It grips me as firmly, 
in another way, as in those college days at Sum- 

We trudged along the smoothly paved road, in 
silence, for a considerable stretch. 

"Bishop Curley sent back his last batch of 
proofs. He made a few changes, but he approves 
what we've done. I'm glad of that." 

I was glad, too. We have been fortunate, 
John and I, in having the scholarly and sympa- 
thetic guidance of His Lordship, as editor. 

"You're relieved, I suppose, that it's over. A 
lot of bother with the work; and not so easy, 

I wasn't relieved, in the least. Truthfully 
speaking, I felt a bit blue. The many hours we 
had spent together had been happy hours, and 
fruitful ones. And I had come to know the real 



John McCormack. The sky was a turquoise 
blue, with only a few flecks of fleecy clouds, and I 
raised my eyes as if to glimpse nature's canopy 
though really, covertly, to steal a glance at the 
big Irish-American at my side. He strode on, 
with head thrown back; I could fancy him almost 
ready to sing. 

"I shall . . . miss you, John." 

He swung a trifle out of his course, and I caught 
his gaze squarely. 

"Will you?" he said, with a rising inflection. 

"I've been a nuisance, more or less. Popping 
in at odd times, and fussing things about dur- 
ing your vacation." 

His tone held a gruffly suspicious edge when 
he replied. "Well, what's a nuisance, more or 
less? It's all in a lifetime." I smiled inwardly 
at this, holding my tongue. "And the book had 
to be written . . . some day." 

There arose, then, before my mind's eye the 
swarm of letters I had read; those communica- 
tions which he treasures far more than he is will- 
ing to admit. I shouldn't have censured him had 
he felt a conceit. For they might easily have 
spoiled him, together with the recognition his 
audiences have accorded him in the flesh. 



Not that he is without his weaknesses, for he 
has them. But at heart he is still the unassum- 
ing boy he was before Distinction tapped him 
positively on the shoulder. And I remembered, 
at that point in our walk, what he had told me 
about his planned retirement; at forty-five, he 
had said. "Eleven years more," I mused; "four 
more than the small number which he only has 
needed to make a career already incomparable." 

Big though his accomplishments have been 
they will be bigger. Those of us who have 
watched McCormack grow know this. It needs 
no more than steadiness of head and purpose, and 
these he seemingly has. His voice is not yet 
at its best, strange though this may appear. A 
richer quality will come, as John's experience 
ripens; and its use will develop its resource, its 
responsiveness to the singer's commands. 

Nor is McCormack's art at its zenith. Wait 
and see, if you, who read, doubt. Hear him 
now admitted master though he be and hear 
him six years hence, at forty. Recall his ad- 
vancement over the last six years, then visualize 
what it is likely to be when he touches the mile- 
stone that makes broader men of all who are 



Caruso will be fifty-one then; John McCor- 
mack forty forty, with the richest period of his 
singing career unfolding in that coming half- 
decade, and hundreds of thousands upon hun- 
dreds of thousands of people hanging upon the 
tones he so unstintingly gives. 

I hope that final day may be long delayed 
which shall mark John McCormack's farewell. 
I shall not want to be there, wherever it happens 
to be. For I doubt, if it be arranged as such, that 
John can really sing. The last concert will have 
to be something completed and done, without 
John's knowing it is that. Otherwise he will 
not finish what he begins. It isn't in him, with 
his nature, to go through with an ordeal such as 
that would be. He'd break and go to pieces, 
right there with his audience which would 
break with him, too. 

But if he were voluntarily to cease his singing, 
now (which he will not do) , he would still leave 
behind a career unapproached by any singer since 
Jenny Lind. I doubt if even that illustrious 
songstress has done as much to make people love 
music as John McCormack. With eleven work- 
ing years ahead, McCormack will leave a name 
likely to be untouched by any other who has gone 



before and, in all reasonable likelihood, almost 
unattainable by any singer who may come after. 

It was some time later. We had finished tea, 
on the veranda, and I had shaken hands with 
everyone. John and the others went out with 
me to the car, where Wilkinson sat waiting. "I 
won't go with you to the station," he said. "Any 
other time, but ... I don't like farewells. 
Staying here, behind, it won't seem that." 

We shot off, Wilkinson at the wheel of McCor- 
mack's Rolls-Royce, down the driveway. I 
turned as we reached the gate, just before we 
would roll out, and from view. John took a step 
or two in my direction. He waved a hand as I 
caught sight of him and I waved in reply. 

I thought then, of that bit of verse Bishop 
Curley had discovered, somewhere up in Massa- 
chusetts, last June. He thought it fitted Mc- 
Cormack so perfectly. It ran: 

"Something more than the lilt of the strain, 
Something more than the touch of the lute, 
For the voice of the minstrel is vain 
If the heart of the minstrel is mute." 




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